grieving preschooler cries about everything except her loss

Q: My daughter is four years old and is currently undergoing many big changes in her life. A few months ago, she lost her granddad whom she was extremely close with. She speaks about him every day and misses him terribly. She doesn’t cry, but speaks about him and recollects little details of their time spent together.

A month later, we moved and she started attending preschool and daycare. Every morning when she wakes up she cries about going to school and her entire morning routine. When she gets to school, she cries. When she gets picked up by her daycare provider, she cries again. 

All this crying doesn’t last very long after I have left. She doesn’t want to change classes and says she loves her teacher. She doesn’t want to change her aftercare teacher for the same reason. But yet she cries non-stop just rambling on with different reasons.

I don’t know what to do anymore, because I don’t know if it’s all the changes or if she is just crying to get her way. What can I do to help her?

- Concerned Mom 

A: Dear Concerned Mom -

I'm so glad you wrote.

No, I don't think your daughter is just crying to get her way.

It sounds to me like she's doing exactly what we all need to do to grieve, which is to remember, to feel sad, and to cry about seemingly unrelated things because we are so tender inside.

You don't need to change any of the situations she is crying about in order to try to make her feel better.

If you did, she would just find some other reason to cry, because that's what she needs to do to heal from her loss. She will cry about seemingly unrelated situations until her tears have cleansed her fully. And then life will look and feel pretty good to her again.

To help, just be with her while she's crying, without trying to fix or investigate anything. Trust that this season in her life will pass. Simply hold her and shine your love into her little heart.

And to do that well for her, you'll need someone to do it for you. So find a listener who can just keep you company while you vent your fears and concerns and feelings about your own loss, and your worries about your daughter's reaction, and your own tears. 

You are doing a good job with your daughter. Her sadness and tears are normal and healthy, and are not a sign that something is wrong or needs to be fixed.

So when it's time for you to leave her at school, give her a warm hug, hand her over to the teacher she loves, and tell her you love her and hope she has fun today. It's okay if she continues to cry. You've done a good job choosing caregivers for her, and they will tend to her with loving attention.

Here are a few articles that might help:

There are lots more on that site as well.

I will keep you all in my thoughts as you navigate this tough time. She's lucky to have a mama who is so concerned about her well being, and is reaching out for information and support.

warm regards,

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