Becoming a bereaved parent is never a matter of choice. After all, who would choose to take on something that is so traumatic it makes you feel as though you are walking around with your skin turned inside out?
Early grief has all the raw soreness and deep sensitivity of a weeping wound.
Do you know that feeling when you are unwell with a fever and your scalp is so sensitive that it hurts simply to brush your hair? If you multiply that by ten or more you will begin to get the picture…..
BUT, the good news is that even though you may not think so at first, you can find choices within your grief and sorrow to manage it, learn to live with it and turn your skin right side out again.
Note: I am not talking anything approaching acceptance here! – that’s for another time….
Often the first step is to search out others who are facing similar trauma. Please excuse the sweeping statement, but this is undoubtedly of huge importance to all bereaved parents. The shared experiences, thoughts and feelings associated with child loss are it seems, common to all, however a child died. Unsurprisingly , my viewpoint is that of a parent losing a teen child. My grief necessarily differs from the grief of a parent who has lost a baby or toddler.
But the fact remains that there is a choice in how one approaches the grief path and it is an entirely individual matter.
Personally, I had a deep-rooted fear that if I did not meet up with and tackle my grief head on it would overcome me. Initially I saw it as a huge opponent; a dark, violent, formless thing that robbed me of sleep and coherent thought and left me in a deeply sorrowful place. I had to reach out and grasp the grief, almost embrace it, to begin to delve into its complexities and to force it to assume more reasonable proportions.
There are many healing tools that I have found helpful over the past (nearly) nine years and I am sure that others will have their own additions to the list:
- Reading grief literature
- Spiritual practice
- Exercise – walking, running, gym
- Creativity in any form
- Hobbies that deflect from grief and are for your own pleasure
Often I think that focussing on activities away from grief and grieving are helpful in allowing you to unconsciously process your grief. In the early days, I found myself constantly doing the number puzzle Sudoku, and still turn to these puzzles, and crosswords, at times.
I know I am lucky in my personal circumstances in that I have the loving support of family and friends, but even if you are coping on your own, seeking out others in similar circumstances is recommended.
As a non bereaved friend has often said to me, “Andrea, the only way I could understand what you are going through is to walk a mile in your shoes…”
It is innate in our human condition to seek out others who mirror our situations and in the case of child loss, I believe this to be one of the best forms of support, comfort and help.