I received several emails from people who appreciated the first half of this article. I am glad it was helpful and hope the rest of it will be just as useful. (If you missed it, click here to read it before continuing with the second half.)
I am going to start with the third suggestion, because I wasn’t quite finished.
- Feed your spirit and your soul (specifically through music and reading).
I already spent time covering music and reading, but I also want to say there are many other ways to do this.
- Being out in nature is another gift from God that has a way of soothing our soul and feeding our spirits.
- Journaling and/or coloring is highly recommended by grief counselors, and many parents find this to be a big help. (If you have never journaled, and don’t know where to start, consider getting My Grief Journey: A Coloring Book and Journal for Grieving Parents.)
- Spending time closed in with God is one that helped me the most, personally. I know many struggle with this one because of how angry they are with God. But He is the source of peace. Until we are able to turn to Him instead of away from Him, even in our anger, th e consistent peace we long for is going to elude us. (And if it helps any, peace doesn’t always mean the absence of pain. I have learned that peace and pain can live inside of me together.)
Now to continue with the last two on the list.
- Release the guilt of not attending functions that are too difficult, no matter how long ago the loss has been.
There are going to be times when going to a joyful or celebration event is going to be a slap-in-the-face reminder that your child is not here; that he or she will not be part of something they should have been right in the middle of. This will continue for many years, such as a graduation, or a birth that would have made your child an aunt or uncle.
Once again, there are a couple of options here. I have found instead of making my absence about me, I let those hosting/attending know that my absence is about them. I don’t want to dampen or possibly ruin the celebration for them and those attending by how deeply I still love and miss my child.
The other option I have found that seems to surprise people, is to ask if there can be a way to include your child. Can a toast be made to your child (and possibly others who have also passed on and are missed)? Can there be a photo placed somewhere? Can a book be set on a table where those attending can write a memory or a note to your child, letting him or her know how much they are missed? Yes, there will probably be some moments of tears, but doing something like this can give a sense of relief, as it gives you the needed grace and permission to miss your child.
When I know my daughter will be acknowledged in some way, it helps bring a healing comfort in the midst of the pain to know others miss her too, and have not forgotten her. Will there be tears? Probably. Do I care? Not anymore. They are tears of a love that will never be quenched until I am with her again, and I don’t care if people around me understand that or not.
- Connect with others who are ahead of you on this rocky road of grief who get it, and will walk with you in the darkness and be the light of hope you need.
When we see and know others who have faced the death of their child and not only survived, but are somehow living a life of meaning and purpose again, it gives us hope that somehow, it must be possible.
For almost two years, I didn’t want to go to any conferences that were for grieving parents. (I also didn’t go to any grief support groups, but that was because I didn’t know of any in my area.) I didn’t want to be around a bunch of people who were a mess like me, thinking we would just sit around all morbid, cry about our kids, and I would leave feeling worse than when I arrived.
I found the exact opposite to be true. It was wonderful and healing to be in a room full of people who were a mess like me. They “got it.” I didn’t have to explain anything to anyone. I didn’t have to feel guilty for laughing, or for a few tears that fell at strange times. It was an instant bonding with people I had never met, and I made life-long friends who are very precious to me.
A word of caution though. Make sure you are connecting with parents who will acknowledge your grief, but also be a light of hope that you can and will get past the suffocating darkness. We all know our lives will never be the same, but some parents are stuck in that darkness, and tell others behind them that they won’t ever get out, either. Keep looking until you find those who give you the hope you need.
As I said at the very beginning of this two-part article, the people around you are not going to understand. I sure didn’t know this depth of suffocating darkness even existed until Becca died. And I hope those around us never have to find out for themselves.
Unfortunately, there may be some who remain insensitive and continually pick at our open wound of grief, who will have to be shut out of our lives. Almost every bereaved parent I have met has said their circle of friends made a shift because of lack of understanding and support when it was needed the most. That isn’t always an option though, especially when it is someone in our family. I pray these five suggestions will help you in a way that rises you above the painful conflict, to a place of rest and peace. And may you have hope that the light is not far away, because those of us who carry it, are walking with you.
If you would like a list of these five suggestions in a printable version you can put somewhere to see as a reminder, just let us know and we will get it right to you.
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.