Grief and Sesame Street: How Elmo Helped Me Help My Toddler

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If grief could be summed up in a single word, that word would be ‘heavy.’

It has been a heavy week. Actually? It’s been a heavy month.

We buried my Granny.
We put our beloved Husky down.
Heartbreak leading to anger, and that anger leading to chaos, leading to numbness.

Grief is not linear. It is not one size fits all. As hard as it is to process and walk through as an adult? It is near impossible with a toddler. My son does not understand that his puppy, Shiloh, is on the other side of that rainbow bridge. He doesn’t understand that GG, my Granny, isn’t going to give him snacks and kisses every Friday anymore. He knows something has changed, but he doesn’t completely understand. He’s not even three. 

So how do I, as his Mama, help him through his grief when I am barely processing myself? How do I explain this so that his precious mind understands it but also doesn’t damper the magic of his world? How do I not let myself break in front of him?

I don’t have an answer. I know that some people say that kids shouldn’t be exposed to this part of life-that death shouldn’t taint their worldview yet. I’ve read other opinions that believe we should show our kids every facet of life. It is this impossible line that we have to walk in which we decide how much we tell our kids without lying to them or shortchanging them; when you’re in the storm that grief is, the last thing you want to do is think about how to bring your kids into it with you. Sometimes, you just have to go through grief.

I ended up on Sesame Street in Communities. This page was everything I needed without any of the opinions. I could read articles, print art activities, and even show Elmo talking about memories. Everything was age-appropriate while also allowing me to walk through my own journey as well. Sesame Street made grief and explaining death approachable and a little less daunting.

I took what I saw and used it. I told my toddler that his GG is taking a long nap in a really cool place up where the airplanes fly. I told him that we could have snacks with GG on her bench at her grave if he wanted. I told him that his puppy is also taking a really long nap, but they’ll go on adventures again one day. I let him see me cry and be sad. We talked about feelings and how big feelings are okay. He has a GG bear from her house and his snack cups from her kitchen. He already had a stuffed Husky, and so we named his stuffed puppy after our beloved Husky. We share memories all the time and say their names. GG and Shiloh are still very much alive in our home. 

Sesame Street reminded me that our kids can handle big emotions, and they can handle the not so pretty parts of life too. I was also reminded that we, as mamas, can do the same.

It was heavy, and quite frankly, it still is. 

And that is okay.

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