My Year of Grief and My Journey to Heal
Guest post by Emilee
When our daughter died I had no choice in the matter. I watched helplessly as our lives changed forever. There was not a single thing I could have done to change the outcome of that night. If there was, I would have with every bit of my soul.
In the weeks after, I realized that I did have a choice in how I survived this. The pain was so crushing that I became desperate for any ounce of relief I could find. It is amazing how the weight of grief could open your mind to ideas and treatments that you never would imagine yourself participating in. My first year of loss has literally brought me to my knees on more than one occasion and it has also lifted me to places that have given me great hope.
My journey to heal may not be for everyone and no single thing I tried made it all disappear. All of them gave me something different and helped me continue to put one foot in front of the other. My mind is open and my heart is healing. It will not happen on its own; it is something that has to be worked at. All of the things I tried took me far outside my comfort zone, but then again, so did losing my daughter.
Talk Therapy- This has been a wonderful outlet as we fumbled our way through the stages of grief. We went together at first and then I decided to start seeing another counselor who was a woman and a mother. For me, it felt more comfortable to connect with another mother. Talk therapy is a powerful tool when your mind is spinning with relentless inner dialog and at times irrational thoughts. Having a trained professional to help you step by step address very intimate thoughts was what got me out of bed on those most painful days.
EMDR- Stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It has been used for decades to help reduce the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is an extremely effective method of helping victims of trauma move past triggers and debilitating memories. For me, the images and memories of finding my daughter, watching paramedics work on her and those blurry hours after in the ER were crippling me. The sound of a siren on TV or while I was driving would physically knock the wind out of me. I knew I had to face it head on and found that EMDR was my saving grace. It was beyond painful, emotionally draining and downright exhausting but after each session I felt a sense of clarity. I felt small parts of myself come back each time. For me, I felt like I made the most progress in the shortest amount of time.
Yoga- People have all kinds of notions and opinions about the practice of yoga. I for one know it allowed my body to grieve along with my mind. I am fortunate enough to have a caring and talented teacher who is also my sister. She led me through gentle and heart opening poses. There were times I cried during my practice and there were times that my mind had to focus on balance and posture and not the pain. It gave me a reprieve from the hurt and my tired mind a much needed break from my thoughts.
Marriage Counseling- It is no secret that marriage is hard at times and marriage after loss can become explosive. My husband and I love each other to the core and both agreed that losing our marriage was not an option. Everything you don’t see eye to eye on in a marriage before losing a child is just compounded by grief, anger and exhaustion. Men and women grieve differently and no matter how hard you try not to, you begin to bicker about everything. We chose to proactively start seeing a marriage counselor and work on things that we struggled with. We usually left happy and really started to use the tools we were given. Relearning how to communicate or walk away when we needed has made us even stronger. Years ago, before we were even married, we would joke that independently we were strong but together we were invincible. We had no idea how true those words would be.
Acupuncture- I am a strong believer in alternative medicine and found my treatments made me feel something again. Feeling energy surge through me and my nerves firing was truly awakening. Being consumed by pain can be numbing, and feeling the zing of the needles would leave me feeling alive. During my sessions I would listen to David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day. I allowed myself to laugh. It felt good. The following day I would always feel tired, like I had run a marathon and I know it was because my body had released so much emotion that it needed to recover.
Healer/Energy Worker- I am not sure what best to call this method but it was recommended to me by another loss mom. The woman I worked with had a very calming and peaceful way about her. It was a mind, body and spiritual connection. It was simple touch and conversation and she taught me ways to help me deal with my anxiety. There is also optional herbal work that you can choose to do as you get deeper into the therapy.
Tibetan Cranial Therapy- It is over 3000 years old and still one of the hardest things for me to describe. It is a practice of pulses and points around your head and neck. The sessions are about an hour long and the practitioner uses their fingers on different points on your head, neck and face. The deep level of relaxation is almost indescribable. It helps to balance and heal the mind and body. It is an experience like no other.
Support Group- We began attending a support group for infant loss and have found extraordinary comfort within that room. While it is hard to see so many families in our same situation, it is refreshing to feel normal for a few hours a month. It is a room without judgment and a circle of chairs that shares advice and stories of hope. Some families are years out and some are new. Each month, we walk into that room and pray we don’t see new faces. Unfortunately, we don’t always get our wish. We are both thankful for the people we have met and the new friends we have made. It truly does make a difference.
Psychic Medium- As a very pragmatic thinking person, this was something I never thought I would do. At a friend’s suggestion I cautiously attended a group event first and then spoke to a medium in a private sessions about a month later. I won’t begin to try and convince you one way or another, but I will tell you that for me, it was undeniable. It is a very personal part of my story so I won’t share in great detail, but it made my heart smile. I know now for certain that my daughter is always with me.
So there it is, my journey to find some sort of peace in my darkest time. I am a survivor by nature and too many times over the past year, I knew I had to fight harder than I ever had to move forward. I know my daughter would never want to see me crumble and because of that I continue to process her death and find joy in the world. Please know I am no expert on any one of these methods. Do your research and find something that works for you. I only speak from experience and personal results. I hope that in your darkest time, you might try something I mentioned and it gives you a moment of peace.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you joyful.
May you be free.