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Grieving Parents

"Some things cannot be fixed, they can only be carried" - Megan Devine

We want to let you know that you are not alone in feeling what you’re feeling. Some things you may be experiencing after the loss of a child (adapted from Compassionate Friends website with our own experiences included):

Psychological

  • Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness, you find yourself in a constant haze.

  • You fear that you are going crazy.

  • You find the scene of the day and what happened plays in an endless loop in your mind. You try to think of every possible way the outcome could have been different.

  • You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith. You may feel intense anger at your God or you may decide there is no God at all.

  • Your mind wanders and it’s difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you’ll be over “it,” not understanding that you’ll never be the same person you were before your child died—and the passage of time will not make you so.

  • You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written.

Emotional

  • You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child.

  • You find yourself filled with anger, whether it be at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child’s death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying.

  • You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid. All you want to do is rewind time to be with your child again.

  • Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance.

  • You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right.

Physical

  • Either you can’t sleep at all or you sleep all the time. You feel physical exhaustion even when you have slept.

  • You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore.

  • You’re feeling anxiety and great discomfort—you’re told they’re panic attacks.

  • The tears come when you least expect them.

  • Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating.

  • Old injuries may flair up and you may experience new aches and pains.

  • You may experience some other physical responses to grief such as losing your hair or breaking out into hives or a rash.

Family / Social

  • If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it’s so difficult to focus on their needs when you’re hurting so bad yourself.

  • You find that your remaining family at home grieves the loss differently and you search for a common ground which seems difficult to find.

  • You’ve been told by well-meaning people, even professionals, that 70-80-90 percent of all couples divorce after their child dies. You are relieved to find that new studies show a much lower divorce rate, from 12-16%, believed to be caused by the “shared experience” aspect of the situation.

  • Old friends seem to fade away as you learn they cannot comprehend the extent or length of your grief.

  • Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless.

  • Others say you’ll someday find “closure,” not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child.

  • Fleeting thoughts of pleasurable activities bring about feelings of guilt. If you child can’t have fun, how can you do anything that brings you enjoyment?

  • New friends come into your life who understand some of your grief because they’ve been there themselves.

Below are some tips for getting through those early days of grief from people who have been there and adapted from Megan Devine, Refuge in Grief.

From Refuge in Grief’s, Megan Devine:

 

“The first weeks and months after an out-of-order death are a world unto themselves. At that initial time of impact, few things bring comfort. Words of intended comfort just grate. Encouragement is not really helpful. That “impact” zone is not the time for future plans or even for reflection on what’s going on. Survival has a very small circumference. It’s not an ordinary time, and ordinary rules do not apply.”

Get outside. Get outside in nature. There is something healing about being surrounded by nature. Maybe it’s feeling that we’re all connected or that there must be something more, but nature seems to help.

Drink. Drink water, stay hydrated. You may be crying constantly and that can be very dehydrating.

Move. Moving can induce the slightest calm. Go for a walk, run, hike, do yoga, chop wood, get sweaty – anything that feels good to you.

Take care of something or take on a project. Focus your care and attention on something else such as taking care of house plants, tending a garden, taking on a home project or something else. This may help.

Read. The right words can put you in a better place. You may also benefit from reading about other people’s losses so you don’t feel so alone.

Shower. Taking a moment for yourself and feeling clean can help. This is also a good time to let your tears flow, alone in the shower.

Eat.  Some people eat under stress; some people lose all desire or interest in food. Some people develop serious, lasting physical challenges due to what we call “the grief diet.” You might find that small doses of healthy, nutrient-dense food are more easily tolerated by your mind and body than full-on meals. Do what you can.

Try to do activities you previously enjoyed. Or don’t. As Megan Devine says, “You cannot afford any big drains to your energy, and you can’t afford to miss too many ways to replenish it. This will mean saying no to people, places, and events that are too much for you. It will mean leaving a place you thought you could be, right in the middle of everything. This also means saying the occasional yes to things that have brought, or could bring, a small amount of light or love into your hour, your day, your week…Say no to what drains you further, say yes to what might offer even the smallest respite or support.”

Journal. Write about what you’re feeling, write to the child you lost, draw. Putting pen to paper can help you identify what you’re thinking and feeling.