Grief is different for everyone. Some grieve in stages, some all at once, and some never grieve. I have seen many versions of grief. But none so intense and overwhelming as the grief of losing a child.
One of my grandchildren died. I can barely type that sentence. I have difficulty saying it out loud. Every time I say it, the reaction is always the same: "That's the worst thing that could have ever happened; there are no words."
But words are what I use to communicate with the world. So how
do I express this deep loss? How can I process such a transformational happening in order to make sense out of it? What words can I say that will comfort those that have lost a beautiful and perfect soul?
I cannot answer that for myself. All I can do is sit in the harsh reality of what has happened. Comforting the family and being present for their needs through this difficult time is all I know to do.
My heart aches. I did not even truly understand that phrase until now. But the physical pain involved in this loss is an intensely real thing.
Self-care is vital
Taking care of oneself during intense grief is the path through it. But what do you do when you cannot keep food down? Food does not even sound good. Sleep is fleeting. It all seems pointless in the moment.
The nervous system has difficulty calming down during intense grief. Upon hearing the tragic news, I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me and I was unable to catch my breath. My body was shaky as if I hadn't eaten or slept for days, and that was before I hadn't eaten or slept for days.
Sleep eluded me. Usually when things get quiet I am able to clear my mind enough to relax and slip into slumber. However, that was not the case in the days following the news. When I laid down to try and rest, my body would vibrate and there seemed to be this maddening, low-level humming that kept me from calming my mind.
Feelings Are Not Facts
When people grieve, they have a lot of regrets, guilt, shame, anger, and misguided blame. Irrational emotions can lead to irrational thoughts. Those emotions are not real. No matter how real they feel, they are just feelings. They are not truths.
Allowing the feelings to flow through without allowing them to shift your reality is difficult. A lot of the feelings around the grieving of a child are uncomfortable. All of those feelings are real, but they are not reality.
The tendency to wish you had done things differently can make you feel crazy. Reliving the loved ones' death can be disorienting and keep you in a loop of madness. This is especially true when a child's death is unexpected.
The only thing I can offer here is to keep yourself grounded in reality as much as you can. Being present with others grieving the same child can bring comfort.
Not the Best Medicine
It's very easy to medicate during this kind of grief. People tend to lean on the things that "get them through" and it's usually something unhealthy. Addictions can be a dangerous crutch. Slipping into this pattern to 'numb' the emotions is common. However, long-term, this is not the best solution.
Having something this traumatizing happen either wakes you up or buries you deeper into despair. And that deep despair is often accompanied by your addiction.
If you are medicating, be aware of yourself in this regard. At least admit that you have a problem, because it is the first step to recovery. Commit to yourself that you will work towards a better coping mechanism and get some help.
All I can offer here is that if you are comforting a grieving family member who is medicating, infuse something healthy into their equation, all while staying true to your own boundaries and self-care.
Life Must Go On
As hard as it is to say goodbye to a child taken too soon, it is important to remember that your life is still happening. Time is still moving forward. You must go on.
Life will always be filled with tragedy, but the gift is to find the joy in each day. Sometimes it is harder to see joy than others, especially now.
For all of you who have lost a child or a loved one, may you take care of yourself through the grieving process, may you find purpose and fortitude, and may your remaining days be filled with the peace and acceptance that your life still has meaning.
And find some joy. Without it, what is the point of all this loss?
Be Well, Friends