Disclaimer: This article is intended for people who are at a point in their journey where they feel they are ready to investigate their grief and begin healing. What I write may not resonate with you at all and that is okay. No one is right or wrong here, we just are. I am not advising anyone to do anything, I am just simply speaking about my own journey and what helped me.
My article was not an easy one to write as I can’t go into it as deep as I would like without making it an actual book. I also found it difficult to write because I know it may be uncomfortable to read. But this is the reality of healing, sometimes it is uncomfortable, well for me anyway. It isn’t all peace and love as some might imagine. It involved more hurt, frustration, strength, forgiveness, admitting uncomfortable truths about myself and then at some point – acceptance, peace, love and a little enlightenment showed up.
People write to me all the time asking my thoughts on how they could begin their journey of healing. That is such a difficult question for me to answer because we are all so different and live different lifestyles, so I could never give an answer that would suit everybody. But what I can do is share my own experience of how I began my healing journey. One thing that I will say before I begin is that there is no rush to start healing. You must endure the hurt before you can heal from it. So please don’t read this article and think “I need to hurry up” because you don’t.
For me to begin to heal after the death of my son, I needed to take full ownership and responsibility for my grief. This grief was mine and mine alone. For me to heal, I had to accept it as my own, regardless of how it came to be mine. The fact is that my heart was broken and I couldn’t change that so it didn’t help me to blame others, God, the universe or whatever it was that I wanted to blame. Whenever I invested energy on being angry at whatever it was that caused my grief, I gave all of the power that I may have had over that situation. I started using my experience as an excuse for why I could not be happy. I became a victim. I always found excuses on why I couldn’t heal. Staying in my grief was easy and I was comfortable there but I wasn’t happy living that kind of life and when I realized that I didn’t have to live like that anymore, I took ownership of my grief and said “Yes, my son died and this is terrible, but I can choose to heal from it and I will.” I became not only a survivor, but I began thriving in my life and now I live it wholeheartedly.
I know, you are probably reading this thinking “Well that is much easier said than done” and you know what? You’re absolutely right. Taking ownership of your grief is tough work. It is so much easier not to heal at all, but at the end of the day you need to ask yourself what kind of life do you want to live?
So how did I start healing? One of my favourite quotes ever is this one by Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I investigated my grief. I sat with it and reflected on it. I took some time out each day to specifically do this and I still do this almost eight years down the road. I wrote about my grief and asked myself some big questions. Who was I before my son died? Who am I right now? Who do I want to become? What was the root of my hurt? Who did I need to forgive? Am I ready to forgive? Then I asked myself this: What have I gained from this journey? I looked for the gifts and I was surprised to find so many. I asked myself what I had learned so far. If you feel anger when asking yourself that question because you cannot think of anything positive, change the way you ask the question and ask “What has my child’s life taught me?” Write the positive lessons down and keep your focus on them.
Once you ask yourself these big questions you begin searching for answers. You might not get the answers straight away, you might just get more questions and that is okay. This is a process that takes time. So take your time with it and be gentle on yourself. This heart-work is heavy sometimes, but if you be kind to yourself through it you will not regret it. There is so much to learn from this journey. Get curious about your grief.
Healing for me, meant becoming more mindful of my own thought patterns. I came to learn that my negative thinking was playing a huge role in me being a victim. Once I became aware of my thoughts, I started to change them. Through this experience of grief investigation, I learned that I had to be much kinder to myself as well as others. When I started to look after myself more, I began feeling better. Some people might think self-care is selfish. I don’t. I believe it is an integral part of the healing process.
The last thing I will mention here to help (hopefully) inspire people to begin their grief journey is to start a new ritual. When you wake up in the morning, don’t just jump out of bed. Lay there for a while and focus your attention on gratitude. I am not asking you to be grateful for the fact that your child died, because that is absurd. But what I am saying is start thinking of all the things you are grateful for in your life in general. It could be things as simple as the fact that you have clean running water. Or that you had a bed to sleep in last night. Just lay there for two minutes and think of as many things as you can that you are grateful to have in your life. When you wake up saying thank you, you set the tone for your day as a positive one. When you go to bed at night, no matter what sort of day you had, do the same thing. Over time, your consistent practice of gratitude will change your life. A great way to remind yourself to do this is to put a post-it note on your nightstand with the word ‘gratitude’ written on it.
Healing has absolutely nothing to do with time, so if you have been sitting there waiting for time to heal your wounds, stop waiting, because it won’t happen. Healing occurs for those who take responsibility for their own grief journey, regardless of what happened to them or who caused the original hurt. People who heal, let go of making excuses of why they can’t. Some people think that healing means getting over it and so they don’t choose healing in fear that they might dishonour their child. The truth is that people who heal still grieve because they still love. There is no getting over it. You do not dishonour your child by choosing healing – you honour your child’s life by living for them. I will love and miss my child always but that doesn’t mean that I cannot live a beautiful life myself.
Healing is a life long experience, just as grief is and I am so grateful that I decided to choose it.
I wish you all gentle times for your own grief investigations.