Before I share the list, let me start out by telling you to stop feeling like you owe them an explanation in the way of excuses, as if you have some kind of disease. I didn’t put this in the list of suggestions, because it is something you must do for your own well-being. Not in an angry bitter way, but as something you must peacefully resolve within yourself.
They are not going to understand. How could they? I know I sure didn’t, until I was on this side of things.
So, with that being said up front, here are the first three things that I hope will help with this struggle we all seem to have for many years (possibly even the rest of our lives) after the death of our child.
- Know that it’s okay to be real and lean into your pain when it grips you unexpectedly.
As I see it, you have three options. One: fight it, which is usually obvious and awkward for everyone. Two: excuse yourself and leave, either for a few moments to compose yourself, or for the rest of the event. Or option three: stay put and let those around you know that you are allowing them into a scared and vulnerable moment and the sacred space of missing your child.
There is no one right option. Each time will be different, and only you can determine which one is right for you at that moment. Just don’t be afraid to go for the third option. It might surprise you how supportive and caring someone might be, and you will have the blessing of having people allow you to share your child with them.
- Remind yourself that the death of a child is considered traumatic grief, and anything under five years is considered fresh grief.
It is normal to not be okay! For the rest of your life. A part of your very being has been severed from you. You will get to the point where you learn how to live with that part of you missing, but there are going to be constant reminders and limitations in your day-to-day life. Most people seem to understand that if a person has an amputation (like our daughter Becca had her leg amputated at age three because of cancer), that person will never be the same as before the limb was cut off from them. We have gone through an amputation with the death of our child. But for some reason, those who have never faced the suffocating darkness of child loss don’t seem to understand that life for us will never be the same, just like an amputee.
- Feed your spirit and your soul.
There are so many ways of doing that. Two of them are through music and reading.
God created music to be a pathway to the soul. What we choose to listen to will affect our emotions and will either keep us in that place of deep grief and darkness, or help us see a glimmer of light and hope to take a step forward. I have made several lists on YouTube. When I find a song that makes me feel hopeful, I add it to my “hope” list, so these songs will play through when I struggle with feeling hopeless. I have a “peace” list, a list of songs that allow me to miss Becca, a list of just instrumental music, and so on.
I highly recommend that you do the same thing. Maybe have a list called, “Can’t sleep” with music (or people you like to hear teach) that you can play at night when needed. Once again, there is no right or wrong music, as long as it helps you take the steps needed for that moment with that struggle.
Maybe you aren’t a reader by nature, but reading is truly a great way to “meet” other bereaved parents who will confirm that you aren’t going crazy, that still being a mess is normal for someone who has lost a child, and that all of those things you are being accused of by the well-meaning people around you just aren’t true.
When Becca first died, I was hesitant to connect with others who were a mess like me. I thought it would make me worse. And unfortunately, there were some that I talked to who were stuck and told me I would always be a mess, and there were books I read that came across as though my life would never be worth living again. However, I refused to believe those things, and kept looking for those who would give me hope. And it turned out, they are out there. And now I am one of them, writing books to offer hope to other grieving parents who are looking for it, while still acknowledging the suffocating darkness that comes with the death of a child.
This is such a loaded topic, and we are only half way through. I hope you will look for the continuing article for the rest of the suggestions to help you deal with those in your life who think grief is a short event in time, instead of the life-long process that it is.
I hope you believe it is a blessing and a relief to know there are bereaved parents who want to connect with you, who have poured their heart and soul (and tons of hours) into writing books just for you. I have a shelf full of these books.
The problem I discovered is figuring out things like, which ones were well written; which ones were based on things I wanted to stay away from? Which ones would bring hope instead of more despair? So I decided to put a list of my top ten favorite books together for you, with a link to each one on Amazon, so you can find out more about it and order it if it looks like a good fit for you. Just a note: these books are all written by those who have a faith in God. Not “religious,” but raw and real in their personal relationship with God, and several of them share their anger with Him and the journey it put them on.
Expressions of Hope is written by author and speaker Laura Diehl to bring hope, light and life to those struggling in darkness after a tragedy, especially bereaved parents. If you would like more information about Laura as an author or a speaker for your next event, click here.