Almost three and a half years ago I was thrown into the world of the grieving parent. At the time, I was in a highly alert state, taking words that were said to me and dissecting them one by one. Sometimes people said things that I found confusing, and maybe even hurtful. I started reading…
Time has given me some perspective on the grieving process. As is usually the case, hindsight always provides a clearer picture. Although I am by no means an expert on how to navigate grief, I now understand and see more clearly some things I did or didn’t do that either helped or added more strain to myself after losing Aiden.
I believe above all else, the most important thing to remember after losing your child is to be gentle to yourself. The loss of a child is a devastating, life changing event. You and your life will never be the same as it was before. The magnitude of your loss is immense. You need and deserve gentleness from everyone, but most importantly from yourself as you try to navigate your new life without the child you love so deeply here with you. These are some of the ways I try to practice gentleness and love towards myself as I continue on my grief journey:
- Acknowledge your feelings and emotions and tell yourself it is ok to feel the way you do. Don’t try to avoid or squash the negative or darker emotions. Give yourself time and space to feel them. Don’t feel guilty or hide yourself from positive emotions when grieving either. If you feel like laughing, let yourself laugh. Don’t deny yourself these precious moments of happiness. Whatever you are feeling at that moment, it is ok. You are ok. You are doing the best you can.
- Give yourself time and space to grieve and begin to heal. This will look different for everyone. For me, I chose not to return to work for many months after Aiden’s death. I needed to put my time, energy and attention towards processing what had happened. And this made the thought of returning to work unbearable. Some people worried that my actions weren’t healthy, but I chose to listen to my heart and give myself this time and space. Try to trust yourself that you know what your broken heart needs.
- Create your own healing mantra. Something you can repeat to yourself to calm and soothe yourself during the difficult moments. It can be something as simple as reminding yourself, “Just breathe. I love my child and I know he feels my love.”
- Find a way to just sit and be with your grief. Don’t try to process or work through any of it, just sit with it. Let yourself feel the emotions. Let yourself remember. Follow where your heart and mind take you. This might be through meditation or sitting in quiet solitude. For me, Aiden’s room became my place of solace, my haven, where I could sit and allow myself to be with my grief, be with my thoughts and be with Aiden. It was my safe place.
- Try to create new habits that will help you heal. Daily habits can be very helpful in bringing balance back to your life when it feels like your world has been turned upside down after losing your child. These habits can be simple things like going for a daily walk, planting and tending to a garden, writing in a journal, meditating, practicing yoga, exercising daily, etc. Anything to give you something to focus on and direct your attention.
- Create special rituals or celebrations that remember and honour your child. Again, there are many options and you must find what feels true and special for you and your family. My family attends The Walk to Remember every fall to honour Aiden. We plan something special each year for his birthday, like releasing feathers into the wind or baking lion shaped cakes for our Aiden the Lion Heart. We have a special candle we light during the Christmas season in honour of Aiden and we fill his stocking with notes filled with love and Christmas wishes for him. We are always on the lookout for signs from Aiden, and have started noticing and collecting heart-shaped rocks from the places we visit and spend time at.
- Spend time with your spouse or partner. My husband and I found it easy to drift apart into our own ways of coping after losing Aiden. But I think it is incredibly important to make the effort to spend time together and to remember to act lovingly towards each other during a time when hurt and anger can flare so strongly and can easily be directed toward the person closest to you.
- Find support. The grief of losing your child can be so isolating. I remember feeling so alone after losing Aiden, as though no one could possibly understand how broken I felt. It was incredibly important to have people who I could reach out to and know that I’m not alone. To know that other people were there for me, both those who had experienced the loss of a child and those who hadn’t. Find people who will show you the same gentleness you need to show to yourself. There is no expiration date or time limit on grief. Find people who understand this and support you as you try your best to navigate the unchartered territory of grief.
Losing your child is such a devastating loss, there are no words to describe the overwhelming pain you feel as you grieve for your child. Please remember to be gentle with yourself, you are suffering a loss like no other. Treat yourself with love, kindness and care.