Family Loss

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I’m sitting on my balcony in Miami, 14 stories up – overlooking the turquoise blue Atlantic Ocean.  I’m one glass of chardonnay in, Norah Jones is humming poolside below, and I feel like I have just walked into a fantasy.  

Someone else’s for sure, because my life has been anything but beautiful lately.  I’ve been radio silent, dealing with another family tragedy and without words to share any of my struggle.

Suddenly and tragically, my house helper/mother #2/soul sister at home suffered a fatal heart attack.  It was the most unexpected and sad goodbye that I have every experienced.  Many of you know that I lost my BFF, Steven Lake earlier this year to another tragic accident.   I am sad, dumbfounded and frightened at the messages this gives to many in my family of how precious and how fragile life can be.

I am writing and sharing this because as a mother, I chose to seek professional help as far as how to discuss this loss with my children and I wanted to share the advice I received in case you should ever need to deal with loss and nurture your children though that difficult time.

What I’ve learned is that we cannot shelter our babies from reality but we can buffer their hardships along the way.  The passing of our nanny was very unusual, deeply painful, and has left a void – both in our hearts and physically in our home.

Losing a care-taker is devastating for a child and a parent.  I chose to be honest and factual with my children, and allow them to process every feeling they might have with my full support.  The professional advice was to be honest, inject you spiritual beliefs minimally, and not to use words like “pass away’ or “moving on” but to use real words that they may come to understand.

I believe that when a loved one leaves a child’s life with no explanation or they just “disappear,” one can be faced with abandonment issues.  I chose to tell my children the truth, and focus on scientific explanations that they could grasp. I talked about her heart and how it was not strong enough. Trust me, it was the hardest and scariest conversation that I’ve ever had to have with my children, but I kept it honest, brief and focused on the physical facts.

I assured them how unusual it was, how strong and healthy my heart is and that my “PLAN” was to be with them and love them and take care of them for a long, long time.  I was told NOT to make promises but to do all I could to help them feel safe within our core family unit.

I cried with them and assured them that tears are normal and healthy and healing.  We talk as family whenever they need and we tried to keep as much normal structure in place as possible.  We’re taking it day by day and honoring the different emotions that come up. Every time they ask me if I miss Rosie, I say, “Yes, I miss her so so much too, and I know how much we love her.”

There is no way to prepare for losing a loved one.  There is no right or wrong way to deal with it.  I simply wanted to share an option with you. In my life, honesty is my default.  Love is my common denominator, and faith that everything will be alright is my saving grace.

There have been many challenges for my family this year.  But what gets me through the hard times, are my many blessings.

My girlfriend shared  this with me and it was oh-so-comforting: Not gone forever….just gone on.

Click here to download some expert tips for parents to help their child deal with loss

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