Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Will I feel better

Why don’t I feel better? It’s been a year…two years…three years since I lost my child.

I hear this a lot. Don’t be impatient. The fact that you want to feel better and move on with your life after the loss of a child is a good sign. What you don’t realize is that it may take a very long time. Each of us reacts differently. Each of us heals differently. There is no set time that you should be well and functioning again. Your mind will do a lot of the work for you. And your body and how you react to your loss will do a lot of the rest. You may be able to do it yourself, you may have family and friends to help you, or you may need professional help. You are in a very vulnerable period of your life; healing is questionable. You must do what is best for you using the resources available to you.

All of us who have lost a child know of the five steps of grief: shock, awareness of loss, withdrawal, healing and renewal. (I will talk about them again in my next blog.) This does not mean you will go through each step and move on to the next systematically. You may very well take a step backwards. There are many things that may trigger a reversal, but don’t be alarmed. That happens; it is not unusual and you should not feel as though you are not, on the whole, moving forward. As an example, you may have a lot of anger in you as to how your child died. As you move through the awareness stage to the withdrawal stage, there is a chance your anger could resurface again and you feel like you have gone backwards. Again, let me say, this is a normal reaction, just as it is normal to question how long this is all going to take before you feel like a whole person again.

The truth is nothing will ever be the same again because you are now a different person with different priorities and different goals. Your child is no longer the center of your life and so you must try very hard to make a new life…one without your child, but one that is both rewarding to you and can perhaps honor your child.

You redefine yourself with the choices you make. You actually chose how you will survive. You can decide whether you are going to be bitter, or you can open yourself to the changes and confront the lessons of grief and treat them as opportunities for growth. Because of what has happened to us, we can learn to have greater courage, we can learn to appreciate different aspects of life that we took for granted before, we can learn the importance of reaching out to others in the same situation who may not be at the same destination but are on the same journey, and we can learn a deeper compassion for others. These are but a few of the lessons of grief that can lead us to a new joy for living if we allow them to.

None of this will happen overnight, and we can’t expect it to. Just know that a grief journey is very hard work, the hardest job you will ever have to do. But you will survive and you will get through it in your own time.

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