Here are a few things to keep in mind about grief that might be helpful.
People will say stupid things… and so will you.
Many people have good intentions when they offer advice or condolences to grieving parents, but the words often fall short. Unless they are also a grieving parent, they probably don’t understand what we’re going through. As a grieving parent, we might not respond well to comments made to us. However, if we try to remember that people generally have good intentions, their words might not hurt so much.
Just be present.
Sometimes it’s hard to articulate what we need when we’re grieving. It can sooth the hurt by simply having someone else with us. It can help to have someone be present and witness our grief or mourning without any commentary, suggestions, comparisons, or judgment.
It’s okay to say “no.”
You know yourself best; you know your limits. When we’re grieving, especially when the loss is still fresh, our energy is drained by just trying to grasp the loss and get through the day. Often there isn’t much energy left for extra activities or other people’s needs. Sometimes taking a shower can be a stretch. Take care of yourself by saying “no” to the things you don’t absolutely need to do. Conserve your energy and practice self-care so that you do have the energy when you need it. Over time, you’ll find that you are able to do more and more.
You are no longer who you were.
Losing a child changes a parent. Our world is turned upside down and parts of us are irreparably broken, like a wound that is permanently scarred. Often parents describe it as their lives having been shattered and they are trying to put the pieces back together. There is no way to put our lives back to the way they were, even if we manage to get it pretty close. The cracks will remain as constant reminders. We can’t undo what we’ve experienced, but we can move forward and be the person we are now.
We grieve our own way and that’s okay.
Grief is an inside thing, mourning (those acts we do to remember) is what others see. While there are overarching similarities and patterns to grief and how we move through it during our lifetimes, each person will grieve differently. Grief is a very personal thing and how we choose to address it varies. Everyone gets to have their own feelings, their own grief, without judgment or comparison to others.
To heal it, feel it.
What we resist persists. If we fight the feelings of our loss, we can’t move past them and they stay with us. For example, if I am angry with someone and I don’t tell them or deal with the issue, most likely I’ll still be angry even if I suppress it. So it is with feelings of loss. They will pursue us until they are expressed, and once expressed, they almost dissolve. We can’t heal what we don’t feel.
Healing and happiness are possible.
The pain never really goes away, but it does get better. If you’re a newly grieving parent, you may want to hit me on that last part of the comment, but it’s true. The pain and grief change over time, or perhaps it’s us that are changed. We learn to cope and integrate our grief into our daily lives so that we can continue and live our lives. There is no formula and you do not recover from grief, you simply learn to live with the loss.
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