Grief from the perspective an old man talking to someone who has lost a child:
"Alright, here goes. I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to. It hears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes.
My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
Unfortunately there's no quick fix for grief or a fast-forward button. But there are things you can do to help take care of yourself, even if it gives you just a few minutes of relief each day.
- Embrace the comfy clothes. Wear your favorite sweatshirt, treat yourself to a new pair of slippers, or curl up in a soft blanket.
- Try reading for 10 minutes before you go to bed - it may just help you fall asleep faster.
- Whether you decide to journal privately, share your story on social media or create an art project, these are all ways to express your feelings. Don't keep it all bottled up.
- Trouble falling asleep or waking up frequently is common while grieving. Don't be afraid to bring this up to your provider. Try laying down for just 20 minutes during the day to at least rest, even if you can't fall asleep.
- Connecting with nature can be very healing - getting some steps in for light movement and feeling the sunshine is a huge plus.
- Find a new way to honor your baby - some ideas: share your story in a support group, wear a remembrance bracelet, paint rocks and hide them around your town, drop off some goods to your local food pantry, create a playlist of meaningful songs.
- Keep hydrated - it sounds silly, but remembering to drink water or tea is important. Your body is physically healing, as well, and needs the nourishment.
What will you do today to take care of yourself? Share any other ideas with us here in the comments.
For the month of November, we displayed a beautiful "Thankful Tree" in our Center for Child Loss. Sweet little leaves were decorated with the names of the babies we are missing each and every day. After experiencing a pregnancy or infant loss, we know that the holidays can be overwhelming, daunting, and even more of an emotional roller coaster. We hope this tree reminds you that there is room in heart for both grief and gratitude and that your baby is with you as you continue to travel this grief journey.
Pictures and videos were shared on our Facebook and Instagram during November. Thank you to everyone who shared their babies' names with us and for the loving messages appreciating the tree.
This is where we share YOUR stories - your loss matters, your baby matters, you always matter.