How Active Grieving Saved Me from More Pain

September 5, 2017

There’s no question that grief is hard. It takes everything you have just to be a human when you’re deep in grief. It’s physical, it’s mental, and it’s tough.

The day that I was lying in my hospital bed waiting for my induction to help me push out my stillborn baby boy, Jonah, I made a decision. We had been fighting to keep my son alive for a couple months, and it took everything that I had to survive through it. I was physically and emotionally weary from months of a stressful pregnancy, and on that day when it came to an end, I decided that I was going to need help to make it through what had happened, and what was happening.

That decision, on that day that my brain was barely able to form sentences, let alone make important decisions, is one of the most important ones I’ve made in my life. I knew I would need help and support, and I would need guidance. So, immediately after I left the hospital, I looked for a therapist.

Therapy, in combination with reading whatever I could find on the internet from other loss moms, helped me immensely.

I still fell deep into grief, but by practicing what I’m calling “active grieving”, I gave myself the tools to survive it.

In the early weeks and months of grief, I filled a tote bag with anything I found comforting – a blank journal, a prompted journal, a couple magazines, a book (lots about grief & loss), a coloring book, crossword puzzles, a pretty planner, headphones to use with my computer or phone…anything that facilitated quiet moments of healing. I called it my “mental health bag”, and I found a lot of peace in it.

I carried that bag everywhere. I took it to coffee shops, to my bed, to my therapy appointments. My therapist would always be excited to see what I had in my mental health bag each week…it was always a surprise! What the bag did for me was create a safe space, wherever I was, that I could disappear into to sit with Jonah, facilitate grieving, and find healing.

I’m not saying I’ve had an easy path through grief. I couldn’t work for months, I suffered through anxiety and depression, and I felt like I had forever lost myself. I still have very hard days 7.5 months post-loss.

What I’m saying instead is that, by making a choice to grieve actively, you can put yourself on the road to finding your new normal, and uncover bits of healing along the way. Finding healing isn’t easy, and it doesn’t often land in your lap. You have to make the decision to get up, to think about your loss, to feel the love for your child, to let the tears come, to open yourself to beauty, to find that beauty, and to let it wash over you.

The pain will come and it will come hard, but so will the love and the beauty. It will all live together in your beautiful, broken soul, but you have to let it in, and you have to work on feeling it.

Don’t just sit back and let grief happen to you. Yes, it’s going to happen pretty much however and whenever it wants, but you do have some control over your healing, and how long the most difficult grief sticks around. You have to make the choice to take tiny steps forward through loving your child, and through loving yourself.

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  • Jolissa Skow

    Jolissa Skow is a wife to Colin and mom to Jonah, born sleeping at 30 weeks gestation due to a heart condition in January 2017. She blogs at Letters to Jonah and is the creator of a new community for bereaved moms called Courageous Mothers.

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