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"Monkey see, monkey do" does not apply when dealing with your own grief around children.

“Monkey see, monkey do” is a well know catchphrase. When hiding your feelings of grief around children, it is not the catchphrase to be following. Hiding your feelings and appearing strong for your children will hinder rather than help them later in life.

Children copy the actions of adults. If they see adults not openly grieving, they in turn, believe it is the right thing. The idea of being strong in grief has now become so distorted that it now implies that you should not have or demonstrate emotions in front of others and in front of children especially.

To help your child, you need better information that that which you yourself learned early on. This means learning what real strength looks like:

1)The natural demonstration of emotions

2)Saying and doing what is emotionally accurate

Real strength includes:

1)Teaching children how to communicate feelings

2)Teaching children not to bury feeling for if we hold onto feelings that leads to explosions or implosions.

“Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.” (Page 10, When Children Grieve, by John W. James and Russell Friedman).

Consider these examples. A baby will naturally react to a loss (e.g., if take away their rattle they may cry loudly and for a long time). A young child will put up a fuss the first time they are left with a new babysitter. These examples fall within normal reactions of behaviours. “As a society, we seem to be willing to allow very young infants and small children the privilege of normal and natural reaction to loss, but as they grow older, we begin chastising them for being normal.” (Page 11, When Children Grieve, by John W. James and Russell Friedman)

In a crisis, we often return to old behaviour or old beliefs. When certain situations arise, your brain automatically searches for information on that topic. Most of the information has been stored in your brain since childhood, waiting to be used in the appropriate set of circumstances. Unfortunately, most of the information we may have stored about dealing with loss is probably not correct.

Most of the information we have acquired in our lifetimes about dealing with grief is neither normal nor natural. You may have carried ideas forward from childhood. These may have affected you now and may affect your children later. Can you recall a time when you said something to your child/children that you heard in the voice of your own mother, father or other relative? I certainly can remember instances of doing so when raising my own child and then instantly regretting what I’ve said and taken steps to rephrase. Or perhaps you can recall a comment that was advice that you heard as a child. Again, I’ve certainly had those experiences, but have managed to filter/discard such poor advice, now having current and more accurate information at hand. Finally, have you ever said or done something that you have promised yourself that you would never say or do again (especially in a heated moment)?

In conclusion, since our children are watching everything that we do, we must become very aware that our beliefs and actions will become their beliefs and actions. Discard old advice by taking the time to read current literature related to grieving and loss before you need to access this information so that you remain current. Examine your own belief system and seek professional help as needed. Take the time to explore what real strength means to you, as well as how you will demonstrate this strength to others. Allow yourself to feel and to express your emotions appropriately and safely. Your future self and children will thank you.


When Children Grieve, by John James and Russell Friedman 18 more supportive ways to say “stay strong” (blog by Sam Tetrault Updated 4/28/2022) “Staying strong after the death of a loved one is bad for your health, here's why” (Content created and supplied by Jenom) “What Does it Mean to Be Strong in Grief?” 11 healthy ways to grieve (blog By Margaret A. Howard, Updated Apr 13, 2014)

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