Last week, my family all drove to the cemetery to look at the headstone for our grandchild who was stillborn. I had been avoiding it. Before the stone was placed, I had, in private, smoothed out the lumpy squares of sod and filled in small holes with potting soil. I spread out a bit of grass seed. I bought a solar powered light to leave there. Small things.
Seeing the stone didn’t make me burst out in tears. I even helped my son plant a flower there without falling apart.
The death of anyone is tough to deal with. But the loss of a child is another thing altogether. To deal with it, I had to make up a new set of rules. The ones I had made for dealing with death of adults didn’t quite fit. Here’s what I did to get me through and what I do that helps me get through even now, one year later:
Forget every time table you have ever heard of
There is no correct time in the grieving process. It is as individual as your fingerprints. Even the Kübler-Ross “Steps of Grieving” model is just someone’s idea of what people often go through.
Everyone has advice. Listen to the people you trust, and then let it all blow away like chaff in the wind. Keep what works for you, and let the rest go.
Feel everything. Or feel nothing. Numbness may set in, and that’s OK as well. My Aunt Helen told me that it just wasn’t right that I didn’t cry or show much emotion when I went through a death. She was right. It wasn’t right — for her. It’s possible that there are thousands of ways to process the pain. Give yourself the time to feel it all, or not to feel it all for a while. Let yourself feel the rage, and the sadness. Rant at God for a bit. He won’t mind a few “why me’s!” or “why them?” Cry if you want to, or don’t if you don’t. Again, throw out all the rules except the ones that work for you.
By the same token, let others grieve in their way. Don’t assume that what works for you is going to work for them. Allow them the same privilege of grieving their own way. This is important if you are going through a death as a family or a couple. The other person may not understand how on earth you can be dealing with this in such a bizarre way. Remember to grieve, and let grieve.
Some have found that the first anniversary hits hard, and any numbness you may be feeling may have worn off by then. Remember the timetable? Forget it. Make your own.
It’s OK to take time off
Time off from work, or from family, or from the phone and Facebook. It’s also OK to jump back into things and have a breakdown a bit later.
Some say to build a scrap book, or create a website. Others say to have a gathering at your home and invite everyone you love. Still, others suggest that you make a donation in your loved one’s name, or create a scholarship fund. if these things assist you to be proactive and positive and create meaning, then have at it.
Becoming an activist helps many
Was it cancer or a traffic accident that led to your loss? Make awareness of that issue your cause. Would you have liked to have been more in the life of your little one? Promote pro-activity, positive parenting and taking action. MADD was formed by a mother who suffered a great loss at the hands of a drunk driver. While that organization seems massive, small gestures are helpful as well. Go for it.
Try to talk
Let those you love, and wouldn’t want to hurt, know what’s going on. A press release or a blog is not necessary. It’s OK to say, “I’m a little numb right now and hanging around the house doesn’t feel good right now, so I am going for a walk, or a drive or going to paint the house.”
Sometimes just telling those you love that you don’t know how you feel — communicating even a little bit — will let them know that they are important to you, and that they are still in your loop. One of the things that I think is important is communication — however much or little. Find a few words, even if the words are I don’t know yet.
Be forgiving if someone who is going through the grieving process acts a little… well, nuts. People don’t always think straight during grief. You would want someone to give you a break. Give one to them.
Don’t purge right off
If the room full of toys is hard for you to see every day, box them up. Or have someone you trust box them up. Don’t toss them into the trash and don’t give everything away. You will probably want one or two of the items as a remembrance later when you are right minded, or more right minded than you are now.
Don’t move, or tear down the playroom
Hold off on any big decisions. Let it set for a bit. You may find that moving will be a good thing, but don’t be too rash. You don’t have to make the decision by the end of the week.
Don’t avoid the fun and funny
Laugh and sing. Take walks. Be the same wonderful person your loved one who passed loved to be with. Make plans for when you see them again.
Use your knowledge and your religious beliefs to help you recover
If that works for you, let it help you with recovery. It works for me. I find my understanding of the afterlife comforts me greatly, and spurs me onto action. I expect that my loved one who has passed on will expect me to live my life.