Sunday, August 23, 2009

Having Setbacks During Grief Journey

This is the fourth in a series of five commonalities that exist among bereaved parents. The first three discussed in previous blogs included: wanting to leave memorials to honor the child, finding a cause to help move on, and going through a grief process on your own terms. The blog today discusses that everyone knows they will have setbacks and/or a rush of emotions that can be overwhelming, but that doesn't mean they won't heal.

We have heard people say to us, “Isn’t she over it yet? It’s been a year since her child died.” Yes, we have setbacks and probably always will when we hear our child’s name, go to an event that our child used to participate in, or hear a song they once loved. We freeze and our mind returns to a day, a month, a year earlier and how our life was then. This is natural and others shouldn’t look at it as though we are still where we were a year or so ago. And we shouldn’t look at it as though “we will never heal” from this. I think there is a difference between healing and just being able to move on. I almost don’t like the word “heal.” You never “heal” from the loss of a child. You continue to live and in doing so you accept what has happened and try to make the best of it.

A friend asked me to attend her son’s wedding about six months after Marcy died. I couldn’t go; I wanted to, but the memories were too fresh, and I knew I would cry during the ceremony and after. Another mother told me, “One time I was asked to go to a soccer league game with a friend. I went, but had to leave in the middle. The overwhelming sensation that every time I looked at a player, my son’s face intruded was just too much. It was over three years before I could attend another game comfortably.”

It has been fifteen years since Marcy died. This week I started looking through all the photo albums I've accumulated over my life. Each album brought back memories of my childhood, Marcy growing up, and what I've done since she died. It was both a joy and painful to go through those albums, but I did find periods of time I thought were lost forever. Now I know I will always have them in pictures and be able to look at them. I cried during the process, remembering all I had and all those I have lost over the years, including the most precious of them all, my only child. I know that I will always cry going through these photos and any items I have from her life. Am I regressing? Not at all. It is all part of life.

New friends say to me sometimes, “You are so strong. I could never live through what you have lived through. I would just die.” My answer to them is always, “What choice do we have when this happens to us? If we want to continue with our lives for our spouse, for our other children if we have them, or for ourselves, we will adjust to our present situation and deal with it. I have been able to do that as many others have. I don’t like it. I’d do anything to have my daughter back here with me, but that is not going to happen and I know it. So we move on, but we keep our child in our heart forever. They will always be with us in whatever we do, in wherever we go, and that is comforting to me.

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