(Note: The content of this article might be challenging if you’re a recently bereaved parent. Having said this, it might support you in moving forward with grief.)
- I am a bereaved mother.
- I am a mother of a twinless twin.
- I am a semi-orphaned daughter.
These are three labels or identities that I acquired in the space of 5 months a little less than 3 years ago. Since then I have been moving through the barren lands of grief on my journey of healing.
You might have read my last article Pay Attention to Your Words and are aware that I’m known to think deeper than words, labels and identities. As soon as I wrote the words above, I questioned them and clarified the unconscious connotation that swims within their deeper meaning.
It sounds tragic, ‘the barren lands of grief’ – or maybe poetic? Which ever I choose I’m aware that the words have an impact on me and my experience.
I have been through an unpleasant deep hole in my grief. Even just months ago, in a very dark moment of self-judgment and self-hatred I said to my husband: “You have the luxury to choose whether you want to stay with me or not. I do not have that luxury. I am stuck with myself without the likelihood of ever becoming that person again that I once was!”
How to get through
At times, I didn’t know how to handle things. People commented on my strength but I tell you I had none, or at least that’s how it felt. There were dark moments. And there were light moments. I chose to focus on the latter and follow the bright stars.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an easy trip through the dark. I stumbled, I fell many times. I can’t really tell you how I got through it. There is no magic recipe. I can however look back and see one thing: I got up, again and again. And I choose to define myself not through what has happened but by the choices I made. The choice is to get up, take the next breath, re-focus and change the way I speak about myself and my experience.
Ready for self-definition
When I’m feeling lost and I’m ready to re-focus, I start by asking myself the questions that I wrote about in this article: Having Lost and Being Lost. I zoom in on what I have gained and move away from what I have lost. If this feels too much for you now, try again tomorrow or the day after.
In my philosophy of life I believe that I’ve signed up to have certain experiences in this lifetime. Looking back over my life, grief and loss is definitely one of the top five. This is how I define the experiences in my life: I see them as learning challenges. I take responsibility for these experiences, believing they happened ‘for me’ as opposed to ‘to me’. I choose to be a creator and experiencer rather than a victim. I turn those learning challenges into opportunities to grow.
So what’s your self-definition?
How would you like to re-define yourself?
Find out more about re-creating yourself and your life post-loss in the forthcoming book Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. For more information visit the Grieving Parents Support Network website or FB page.
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
Nathalie Himmelrich is the author of a number of resource books for bereaved parents and the producer of the Podcast How to Deal With Grief and Trauma. As a relationship coach, grief recovery expert, and bereaved mother herself she believes that relationships (intimate and with other support people) are the foundation for a healthy grieving experience. She is also the founder of the Grieving Parents Support (GPS) Network and the May We All Heal peer support group.