What You and Your Children Are Experiencing is Grief

by Erin Erickson | On Our Minds – Columns by Mom Enough & Guests | Grief

About the Author

Photo of Mom Enough Owner & Co-Host, Dr. Erin EricksonDr. Erin Erickson is a maternal child health specialist and nurse practitioner, dual-certified in women’s health and family practice. She has extensive experience speaking and writing on topics related to parenting, maternal-child health, and mindfulness. In addition to her graduate studies in nursing and public health, Erin has a Master of Arts in integrative health and wellbeing coaching and works as a health coach for parents and students (from high school through graduate school). As a wife and mom to three children, Erin is living most of the issues addressed on Mom Enough.




The pandemic has played out in so many different ways, for so many families. Many of us are stuck at home, while some are working grueling hours on the front line, longing for home. Many are without work, struggling to get unemployment or financial support to keep our home or our businesses from going under. While some are forced to work, risking their health and their life, so that we can have groceries or other needed supplies. As parents, we might be struggling to home-school our children, wracking our brains to remember 5th grade math or 6th grade grammar lessons. We might be too busy or too stressed to be the teacher our children need. For our children, the pandemic has meant no graduation, no audiences for performances worked on for many weeks or months, and no goodbyes at the end of a school year, of high school, or of college. For some, this pandemic has meant a forever goodbye to a loved one, a colleague, or a friend.


Girl crying on ground with grief


On every level, the pandemic has meant grief. It might be a little loss, like not being able to go to a favorite park. Or a medium loss, like missing a favorite friend or long-time support person. Or it might be a big loss, like the loss of a job, or a death. So, how do we manage all the changes related to the pandemic, while we also manage our emotions, such as grief?


Acknowledge that much of what you are feeling is grief. Grief can take many forms. You might feel sad or cry, sometimes at unexpected times. You might notice that your emotions shift more quickly, from joy to anger or sadness. You might feel physical pain or restlessness. You might be struggling to sleep, or eat, or you might be sleeping more or eating too much (ask me about the “COVID 15,” it’s worse than the Freshman 15). These are all normal reactions to the loss of someone or something important. You might even feel that you are reacting more than your family or friends. That is okay too. We all process emotions differently; there is no one right way to grieve.


Woman staring out window, feeling grief


Recognize that it might be difficult to grieve while you are adjusting to so many changes. When asked how he handles his emotions, my husband always jokes that he stuffs them down as far as he can, so he doesn’t have to deal with them. While this is not entirely true, sometimes, when something is difficult, it’s too challenging to face the emotions surrounding it while you are in the middle of it. While long term it’s often best to deal with the emotions, right now it is okay to simply acknowledge how difficult this is and then set down those feelings for the time being. You can always “pick them up” again when things are getting easier or when the acute stage of the pandemic is behind us and you have the emotional reserve to work through it. As Paul Ollinger, comedian and host of the Crazy Money podcast, stated, right now, “your only goal is to arrive.” You just have to get to the other side. Your emotions will still be there when you arrive and you can deal with them then, if you can’t right now.


Mother and Child in forest


Keep things simple. Whether it’s self-care or some big project you want to finish, it’s okay right now to simplify. This might not be the time to start your next big business venture or a major house project or teaching your high schooler pre-calculus (who remembers that, anyway?!). If you are struggling, you might just need to cut yourself some slack. Break down big projects into smaller pieces and try tackling just one or two of those. Take some mini breaks throughout the day, and if you’re just not feeling motivated to get things done, give yourself some compassion. It’s hard to feel motivated when so much of the world is shut down. Let the silver streaks of grey hair show through, pull your hair up into a ponytail, put on some sweatpants, and simply take a few deep breaths. You will get through this!


Yes, we are all experiencing grief, but we might also be seeing amazing courage, resilience, and strength because we are surviving. So, let’s be gentle with ourselves – this is not the time to push it – and let’s celebrate some of the good that is arising out of this incredible challenge.


Girl smiling, hands on head



KNOW THAT HELP IS AVAILABLE. This is a very difficult time, and it is well within the normal response to feel down or stressed. If you find yourself feeling really stressed, overwhelmed, or sad, it might be a good time to connect with a professional who can help you feel better. Most mental health practitioners are now providing virtual visits. Call your primary care doctor, nurse practitioner, or PA; or check with your health insurance provider for resources on finding a counselor or therapist. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or anyone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is no reason to struggle alone. Help is available!


HELPING PARENTS COPE WITH THE PANDEMIC. In the face of an unprecedented global crisis that requires children to be home from school, whether they are in preschool or college, and results in a 24-hour news cycle with overwhelming and sometimes terrifying messages, it’s no wonder many parents are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or sad. So, how can we cope as we adjust to new routines, financial challenges, and the risk of infection from the novel coronavirus? Dr. Erin Erickson, co-host of the weekly podcast Mom Enough®, offers tips to help you stay positive and actively address the range of emotions that most parents are feeling during this pandemic.


HELPING FAMILIES COPE DURING THE PANDEMIC. We are all reading about it and listening to stories on the news. Our children are hearing about it too, and they are feeling the impact as they are kept at home and adjusting to new ways of learning. So, how can we stay happy and healthy as we hunker down and protect our families – and those most vulnerable – from COVID-19? Read these practical tips to help your family cope, and make the most of your time together, from family nurse practitioner and parenting coach, Dr. Erin Erickson.


10 NATURE ACTIVITIES TO HELP GET YOUR FAMILY THROUGH THE PANDEMIC. Our friend, author, Richard Louv wrote this excellent article on nature activities you and your children can do during the pandemic.


Photo of Mom Enough Co-Hosts, Dr. Erin Erickson & Dr. Marti EricksonDr. Erin Erickson and Dr. Marti Erickson are here to support you during the pandemic, and always. If there is a topic that you would like us to address, send us a note and we will do our best to get you the information you need. Mom Enough® focuses on evidence-based information for parents and people who care for children and families. Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter and stay up-to-date with our latest podcasts and articles.



For helpful information and resources from Mom Enough’s supporting partners, check out these links: 

HAZELDEN BETTY FORD FOUNDATION. Hazelden continues to offer recovery services, and also has options for virtual addiction and mental health care and recovery support resources through RecoveryGo.


YUP, A MATH TUTORING APP. Yup offers instantaneous tutoring, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now you don’t have to remember pre-calculus, or algebra, or even long division. Let the experts at Yup take one thing off your hands: math homework!


DAVID’S CENTER FOR CHILD & FAMILY DEVELOPMENT. St. David’s now offers telehealth visits for children’s mental health services, parental mental health therapy, speech and occupational therapy, and autism treatment.


HELP ME GROW MINNESOTA. Help Me Grow offers helpful resources on tracking developmental milestones, encouraging healthy development, and getting help for a child. They are currently accepting and responding to referrals for anyone who has a concern about their child’s development.


KINDERBERRY HILL. All of Kinderberry Hill’s childcare and education centers are still open and following guidelines to keep children and their families safe during the pandemic. Kinderberry Hill also has great resources on their website…check out their suggestion to paint with water!

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