This is potentially a triggering post about the fear of death. Please only consider reading if it’s something you relate to. Some gentle parents are fortunate to have a huge and local support network who they genuinely trust. If something happened to you, it would not be ideal but your children would be gently and lovingly cared for by liked-minded family. For the rest of us, it may be a daily battle to wonder ‘what if I died’ or, on a less extreme level, ‘what if both my husband and I went into hospital and was isolated from them for 2 weeks, with COVID for example’. This anxiety was made worse for me shortly after falling pregnant with the twins as I realised my daughter would have to be left with someone she barely knew whilst I gave birth in a high risk pregnancy. More anxiety on this topic increased again since COVID-19 took over the world. Lots of ‘what ifs’ were created in my mind and so far I haven’t really felt comfortable with any of the choices we have. This blog post looks at the reasons why gentle parents may feel so strongly this way about death and children in a supportless network. It also offers tips for improving health and wellbeing to hopefully not make the fear a reality.
I thought perhaps it was just me that feared mortality. Anytime I try to discuss “if anything happens to me..” scenarios with my husband, he didn’t want to participate in the conversations. When I started some research for this blog post on the fear of death, I discovered I am not alone with this fear and that it’s quite a normal feeling. As Lagner’s book ‘Choices for Living: Coping With the Fear of Death’ explained:
“We spend much of our lives seeking to justify our existence, to validate our behaviour, and to establish our self esteem. These activities are crucial to our continued living… In their absence, we could face depression, suicide, or a ‘living death’…”
Lagner’s book also refers to 6 identified fears associated with death. One of them is written perfectly for how I feel “fear of what might happen to loved ones left behind, especially dependents.” The well known saying, face your fears, does not seem valid for this particular situation as naturally I don’t want to attempt suicide to feel less fear about what may happen. So how, then, can I face this fear head on? I try to draw out every possible reason why this fear exists, and then try to come up with some solutions to help me feel better about them. As a separate note, this book goes into much depth about the vital importance of attachment parenting in reducing the fear of death and associated fears in young children (fear of darkness and abandonment). Aligned with Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate ‘Hold Onto Your Kids’, Lagner’s book also refer to the importance of parent orientation. It can fill you with even more confidence that attachment / gentle parenting is the best route when even authors writing about death are stating the importance of it for children.
Love Is Not Enough
Most people in life do have networks of family and friends but, even then, we may realise that love is not enough. If our own traumas are not dealt with fully, the stress of children can cause triggers and as a result harm our kids in even the most loving circumstances. I have personally been raised in an emotionally and occasionally physically hurtful environment so know the long lasting effects that a stressed upbringing can bring to a child, even 30+ years after the traumas occured. Becoming a Mum forces you to seek healing and a better life for your children, whereas having 3 children forced into your care unplanned may cause several more tensions than a loving parent would experience.
Why Local Feels Important
Our children last physically saw my cousin a couple of months ago due to coronavirus COVID-19 as well as that we live several hours away. We’ve seen her family, amazing as they are, maybe a handful of times since having our children. A handful of times, however, does not seem like enough for our kids and my cousin’s family to really know each other. Distance simply makes true relationships with children nearly impossible to form. It would be like a boss you meet once or twice a year at a workplace. You may really like that boss and feel grateful for them touching base with you. Ultimately, you would unlikely feel comfortable going to live with them. I would imagine it’s no different for children. It would be huge to go live with someone after losing your parents young, but even more challenging when distance has been a feature of that relationship before any trauma like death.
We have 3 young children. If anything happened to me and their Dad, I know my kids would be so much happier and contented by staying together. I also know that caring for 3 of your own children can be physically exhausting, emotionally draining and isolating at times. Would someone else care for someone else’s 3 children as hard as I do? No doubt, no. That causes me a level of anxiety. Even if someone would be willing and able to care for our 3 children, they’d have to move to our house which is miles from any family we know so doubtful. The alternative is to move our 3 grieving children to their house, which is unlikely to be big enough and would cause extra stress to the children. This extra stress may cause the caregiver to struggle to connect and start the relationships on a rocky road.
One additional child to a household comes at a cost. In our family’s case, we have 3 to add to the financial pressure. Whoever is to care for your children needs to be financially able to cope.
Solutions to Combat This Fear of Death
Ultimately you are your child’s best bet, as Gordon Neufeld says in the book ‘Hold Onto Your Kids’. This means stay safe, keep yourself healthy and aim to live as long as possible. Easier said than done, but there are motivational science below to help you on your way to health and a longer life. Healthy means being mentally healthy as well as physically healthy.
Work on Your Mental Wellbeing
I feel that the most important part of health is the mental side of it. Dealing with your childhood traumas, seeking help if needed, being comfortable with who you are and the people around you. I’ve been aiming to get my mental health to the best place possible. All of the other health aspects should either naturally improve or you’ll be more able to achieve changes as your mind isn’t dragging you down. Many eating disorders are found to be linked to traumas and post traumatic stress.
Become Food Conscious / Healthy
I am sure I am not the only person who easily eats junk food if not holding a mirror to myself. We are a junk food society. Be mindful of the addictive natures of sugar and other junk ingredients. In addition to junk foods, aspartame is a sweetner found in many foods we eat.
Aspartame is typically found in low sugar foods and drinks e.g. diet coke and 7Up Free. It is often written on the food labels but not always. It’s highly addictive and very toxic to our bodies. When I was struggling with infertility, I tried many different strategies to conceive but then they discovered I had polycycstic ovaries syndrome (PCOS). I researched about causes and one scientist, Dr. Betty Martini D. Hum, was passionate about the topic of aspartame and infertility. She wrote an article about why Jennifer Aniston couldn’t get pregnant – see her article here.
I emailed Betty Hum asking whether stopping a diet coke addiction would leave your body with irreperable damage or how long it may take for my body to recover to be able to conceive a child. I was so grateful as she wrote me a long reply explaining that aspartame is an endocrine disrupting disease. It stimulates prolactin, changes the menses and causes infertility. Over 30 years, every single woman who she’d told to come off aspartame had fallen pregnant. I am yet another grateful one who she can add to her list. Shockingly, the NHS’s Changes 4 Life campaign recommends people swap sugary drinks like fizzy drinks… for no added sugar drinks. This could mislead some people to thinking diet drinks are better for their children, when they are not necessarily so. I am no expert, but I believe that the best drink for children and adults is safe water.
Optional to do list:
- Remove aspartame and phenylalanine based products from your diet – this includes diet pop drinks, some yoghurts, reduced calorie fruit juices, gum… the list is immense. Read the labels and be mindful that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is (sugar free, zero, low fat).
- Eat a minimum of 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. The media has controversial reports which sometimes miseducate the public about what’s good or bad for us to eat. The science shows that increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables each day will improve your mental health as well as physical (see example study here).
- Eat white meat rather than red meat as science suggests it is healthier (see example study here on gastric cancer being lower with white meat consumption vs red meat).
- Drink your recommended water intake to stay hydrated.
Become Active for Health
The health benefits of physical activity are enormous. It was found to reduce the risk by 25-30% of 25 chronic illnesses as well as keep you alive longer. See further details in this article. But how much activity is recommended? The minimum activity recommended by the World Health Organisation for an adult is:
- 150 minutes moderate activity per week; or
- 75 minutes vigorous activity per week; and
- Muscle strengthening activities should be done twice per week; and
- For additional health benefits – 300 moderate activity per week.
Get a Quality Life Insurance Policy
Life insurance can reduce anxiety about money worries if you died. The insurance would provide a fund for your children’s carer to use in caring for your children on top of their other responsibilities. It is best to seek advice from a regulated insurance broker regarding insurance.
Receive your free personal injury consultation now!
Seek Advice Regarding Trusts and Wills
Having a will can maximise the financial situation if you were to die as well. I am no lawyer, but they know ways to maximise inheritance and ensure your children get what they need in the event of yours and / or your partner’s death.
Skype Family or Friends Who Live at a Distance
Using video calls to family or friends who you feel may be in a position to care for your children can help create some sort of connections. It also keeps that other family in the loop about what your children are upto, what they like doing, and the progress they have made on things.
Being as gentle a parent as you can will hugely help your children continue to feel connected to you when eventually you die. Not only that but it will help their subconscious memories to dictate a lot of their interactions with others who will care for them. For more information on this, Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson’s book below is highly recommended. Being gentle with your children now may help ensure they are assertive with another parent figure, or even with a partner when they’re adults.
Love Others and Allow Yourself to Be Loved
The role of love has been shown in Langner’s book to increase longevity. Simply loving our partners or our children may help us live longer. For help with feeling loved and being more loving, understanding yourself and others through therapy or counselling can be useful.
The only conclusion I feel able to draw is that the best thing for my children is for me and my husband to live as long as possible. The first step to achieving this has been to work on our mental health, which we’ve made huge progress on prior to becoming parents and also since the kids were born. Another aspect is to work on our physical health through being mindful of what we eat and other healthy activities. Finally, in case the worst happens, it is worth setting up wills and insurance policies and have as much contact with family networks as possible to help ensure they are cared for in the best way possible if the worst happened.