Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grieving Differently and At Different Rates

This is the third in a series of five commonalities that exist among bereaved parents. (see full list on Aug. 1 blog). The first two dealt with setting up memorials to honor your child and finding a cause or reason to move on with their lives. Today's blog discusses that everyone grieves differently and at different rates.

The first year, they say, is the worst. Some say it is the second year. Others say the third. No one is correct, because everyone has their own time limitations. If one is to follow the five stages of grief: shock, anger, withdrawal, healing and renewal, some can do them in one year, others may take five years. Don’t think that once you pass through a stage you are done with it. You can always go backwards before you go forward again. That is okay. It happens and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or surprised about. The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different and no one is expected to grieve in a prescribed way.

Husbands and wives grieve differently and to hold your marriage together the best thing to do is to communicate with each other and if other children are involved, communicate with them also. Talk about your child; remember the good times. Spouses should also talk about their fears. We become frighteningly insecure in grief and fear that everything we know and love will be swept away, even ourselves. Women tend to be more open with their feelings while men tend to hold everything back. Men believe they have to be the strong one in the family and so these bottled up feelings can come out in anger and at the wrong time, causing friction with the wife. If you think either of you need professional help, seek it, and don’t wait until things get very bad. Remember, each spouse had a different relationship with the child; therefore, each experiences a different loss. One may be up emotionally while the other is down, or one may pass through one phase faster than the other. Tempers are short and irritations flourish. Harsh things are said that aren’t meant. A spouse could wrongly conclude that he or she can’t depend on the partner for help in grieving.

To survive the heartaches of life, marriages must be built on trust. Nowhere is this more important than when we are plunged into the despair of parental grief.

When my daughter died I was no longer married to my daughter's father, so did not have that connection that many do. My husband at the time was Marcy's stepdad. And although we cried, talked and laughed about a Marcy story, in my heart I knew it was not the same loss for him as it was for me. He knew that, understood and even said so outloud.

I would say that for me the hardest year was the third year. I think it is because you realize by then your child is really gone and you’ll never see them again. Before then, they were just around the corner or they were away and would return. By that third year, it has become reality. Again, it is different for many people, but those who are just starting out, your path will be long and hard, but know that however long it takes, you WILL get through it.

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