I know everyone has a different journey when it comes to grief.
I share mine because there are going to be moments of my own journey that may make someone else feel less alone in theirs.
I share mine with hopes that every reader will walk away with a more clear understanding about what it means to love and grieve.
We just passed the 9 month mark.
Every day I am reminded that I am one day nearer to that one year anniversary of the day our lives fell apart.
I’ve written before about grief being like an ocean.
And then the times when without warning an intense wave comes out of nowhere and crushes you beneath its weight.
Filling your lungs with the salty sting. You gasp for air and fight for it.
You are pressed under and wrapped in it. Every fiber of your being feels it.
You are capable of containing nothing else.
(see full post here: The Weight of Grief)
This is one of those times for John and I. For the most part, we’ve inadvertently taken turns being “under the wave”. This time we are both feeling the crushing weight. At the moment, we are two broken people trying to love each other well, trying to care for our children (who are all hurting in different ways), and trying to manage the practicals of life.
It feels virtually impossible, and it is a very lonely place.
We wrestle with heavy questions that have no answers. We carry emotional pain that causes literal physical pain.
It effects how we think, our ability to focus and remember common things.
One of us will find the other wandering, having forgotten the goal or destination.
We might stop mid sentence because words don’t come, or we forget what we were even trying to say.
Yesterday I tried to read something to John, and I literally sounded like a 2nd grader who is just learning harder words. I finally had to stop.
Reading about grief helps because as I told John last night, “It makes me feel less crazy.”
Common physical symptoms of grieving parents include:
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Mood swings
- Inability to concentrate
See, I’m not crazy.
(Feel free to read more about Child Loss and Grief HERE)
Here are a few things I have learned that help keep us as functional as possible (and yes I may be reminding myself):
1. Eat. Take care to give your body good nutrition. The toll this takes on your physical body is so intense. You need fuel.
2. Exercise. Even if all you can do is take a walk, move your body. For John and I working out has literally been a life line. Trust me there are days we don’t and there are days we have to push each other, but it helps so much.
3. Load up on supplements. We need all the extra we can get. Vitamins, Minerals, Adaptogens, herbs and essential oils have been life-savers for us.
4. Get outside. Drink up some sunshine. (This week in Kansas City is super gray, and trust me, it is NOT helping).
5. Talk. We talk a lot. Talk to your spouse, a good friend, find a counselor. Talking about it helps alleviate some of the pain.
6. Consider other forms of self-care: massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, facials, pedicures. (Yes I know all those things cost money, but when you can treat yourself.)
7. Do what you love. Don’t forget to do things you love on the days you have strength. (Write, play music, go to a park, go out to eat with friends, take in a show or a concert, go to a movie, whatever helps you feel “normal” for a few moments.)
8. Escape. Yes, while I’m on the subject of movies, yes, watching TV or a movie is a healthy way to “escape” your own reality for a few moments. (There are many other “unhealthy” escapes, so let yourself have a few harmless hours of TV binging! Trust me!)
9. Don’t neglect your spirit. And I tread here lightly, because it is very common to have a crisis of your belief systems at a time like this. Please have grace with yourself as you wrestle through really hard questions. It’s ok to ask. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok that none of this makes sense. For me writing helps. Keep a journal, pray/mediate- my prayers are so short and simple (kind of like breathing).
10. Find support. I’ve cautiously allowed myself to connect to bereavement groups. I’m treading lightly right now. There are times to be honest that the pain of others makes me feel known, and times when it’s just too much to process along side of my own. Find what feels right to you. There are many opportunities online and through local support groups. Seek out counseling and family support.
It is utterly terrifying when the waves come. And I never know how long they will last. How many days will feel crippling with the weight of it?
And sometimes the list above does little to help, if I’m going to be honest. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done but to feel it.
Then when relief comes, it isn’t the absence of grief, it’s simply the ability to walk a little stronger, to breathe a little easier, and to smile a little more often.