I lost a child. It was a storm that I lived through. When my beloved baby died in my arms I felt him leave, and it left a sucking black hole in my heart. I expected sadness, I did not expect an actual, physical pain in my chest.
I went to a therapist when I was grieving for advice about walking though grief, and she told me that there was nothing she could do, no advice she could give me to help. I found that very discouraging.
Since it’s been a few years since I lost my child, I learned that there were several things that I could do to help with grief, and I am writing this post to help anyone else who might be experiencing grief right now. This is what worked for me.
I’m not a therapist, and I won’t be giving any advice on specific situations. This is all based around my own personal experience. If this helps, I’m glad. If this doesn’t work for you, that’s fine too, I hope you find something that does comfort you. Even though my therapist didn’t help me, that doesn’t mean that one can’t help you, and if you find your grief to be overwhelming, I strongly encourage you to seek help.
What To Expect When You’re Grieving
People will say awful things to you unintentionally: Often, when people hear about something terrible that has happened to you, they will unintentionally say something awful, putting their foot directly into their mouths. I believe this happens because they are overwhelmed and upset, and not really sure what to say.
People may avoid you, because sadness is sad: When you are feeling awful, it can make things even worse when people you love and need avoid you because they don’t want to be around a sad person. If this happens, just continue reaching out to different people. I know it’s hard to reach out when you are feeling terrible, but you need help now more than ever.
After about two weeks (or less), people may tire of your sadness: I noticed that after about two weeks, most people felt that I should be done with being sad. They were certainly done with my grief. It’s okay to put some distance between yourself and those people for a while, or to just spend time with them when you don’t want to talk about your grief.
People will surprise you: You will learn so much about the people around you when you are grieving. I fell more in love with my best friends than ever before. I realized there were certain people I’m not interested in having in my life. I found depths of compassion in people I barely knew, and now I have a feel and full respect for them. I learned lessons about compassion and love from the strangest corners. I learned from amazing people how I could be a better person myself.
You will change: Deep grief changes a person, sometimes forever. That’s okay. It’s okay to be a different person than before. Experiences changes us. Remember that you do have some influence on how you will change.
I am so sorry for your loss: This is a saying that is used quite a bit to express sympathy. It is not an apology. A person that says this is not trying to apologize for harming you in some way. They are expressing sympathy. Saying something like “Why, it’s not like you did anything wrong?” is rude. It is counter productive to be rude to people who are expressing sympathy. Lashing out when you are grieving can feel good in the short term – you are in pain, and this can make you feel all sorts of emotions, but strive to be kind to the people who sympathize with you.
Ways You Can Help Yourself:
Tell Others What You Need: This is absolutely vital. People will want to help you, but don’t know what you need. This can lead to them saying or doing hurtful things unintentionally. Let people know what you need right now. You may want to avoid talking about your grief, or you may only want to talk about it with certain people. You may want to go out with friends, or have them come to you. It may be hard to identify at first, but even if it’s just a guess, let people know what you need, if it’s for them to bring you some fruit, or to call you, or to send you funny cat videos.
Take Care Of You: You are so important. Take care of you. Eat foods that make your body feel good. Get enough sleep. Bathe and wear things that make you feel comfortable. Take care of your body the best you can. How would you treat the person you love the most in the world? Treat yourself that way.
Take Care of Others: When you feel ready, think about activities you can do that will help other people. We are social, built to care for one another. If you feel like you are getting lost in sadness, it can be helpful to care for someone else. Look at volunteer activities in your area that interest you and get involved. It may seem counter-intuitive, to help someone else when you feel like you are so empty, but helping others can fill us up, and knowing we can put good into the world, even if it is a small good, can help heal the heart.
Fix What You Can: When you are grieving, you are aware that there are things only time can fix. That can be overwhelming, because you have to live in the now. Focus on fixing the things you can fix that will make life easier and better for you. You can make your bed. You could organize your mail. You can go to the grocery store and buy food that will nourish you.
Spread out the Load: Try not to pile too much on to one person. Gather the people you love and that love you around you, and let the network help.
Reach Out: Reach out to the people you love. Reach out to a Doctor or Therapist or Support Group.
Cut Out: Grief can sometimes outline, very clearly, the things in your life that are Not Helping. This might be something small, like how you’ve been organizing your sock drawer, or something large, like a person in your life who puts your down. It’s okay to cut out what isn’t working for you. When I went to see that therapist who told me there was nothing she could do to help me with my grief, I cut her out, becasue she wasn’t helping.
Forgive the Silly Stuff: Your neighbor said something hurtful about your loss, your Great Aunt Birtha did something thoughtless, your Cousin Freddy put his foot right into his mouth. If you can, when you can, forgive them. Take what they said to you as a lesson: You will never say or do something like that to someone who is grieving, and you will be a better person for knowing this.
This post is what I wish I knew when I was grieving, what helped me. If something helped you when you were grieving, leave a comment below. New people are screened.