When something unbelievable happens to us or another person, many of us react by telling the story multiple times. We need to tell it to someone and see their reaction, maybe different reactions.
“Can you believe she cheated on him?”
“I heard he lost his job after screaming at his boss.”
“I was just driving down the road and she pulled in front of me – nearly hit me!”
Often it just takes a couple of times till we’re satisfied that we’re not the only ones feeling shocked or angered. Then the need to tell fades away a little at a time, perhaps only coming up at occasions that remind us of the incident.
We replay situations verbally to make sense of them. So much in life doesn’t make sense to us that we seek out others to help us put the pieces together:
“She had the perfect marriage.”
“He’s the nicest guy on the block.”
“She’s a driving instructor.”
It’s the same with grief, but if you’ve lost a child you know that most people put a time limit on hearing your story again. This is why therapy becomes so important for us – it allows the story and the trauma to be retold over and over with no fear of judgement or a time limit. It allows our brains to work out the confusion that happens in moments of extreme anxiety and fear.
“The doctor just barged in and told me he was dead.”
“They wouldn’t tell me what was going on with her.”
“No one let me see the monitor.”
“I close my eyes and still see that hospital room.”
Especially in the worst times of our lives, we can’t comprehend the actions of others we perceive as (and can be) uncaring, cold, angry, annoyed, or emotionless. We can’t put together the trauma of what might be a short amount of time when life completely imploded and left deep scars we can’t seem to get away from. Like a child who plays out the same traumatic situation over and over again with her animals, we do the same with talking, writing, art, etc.
I have told my therapist dozens of times during the past two years that I can’t believe my sons are gone. My third son Kaden passed away at 3 weeks old last August, and I’ve repeated my disbelief of this to her from that point in every few sessions.
Because I can’t wrap my head around it. I need to talk about it, maybe the same incidents, until I get a response that allows me to either understand it better, or know that others feel the same way as me.
We may have to repeat this process a few times, or maybe a lot of times. It’s something that has to happen for us to start to move forward. We talk, we connect, we relate on some small level. I need a connection in my trauma and grief that allows me to know this is still a normal feeling – that other people can’t understand what happened either. Then we can start to heal.
Diana Stone is the Editor-in-Chief and owner of Still Standing Magazine, as well as a loss mom to three boys, twins born in 2012 and another son in 2013. She also has two (living) daughters. Currently, Diana teachers first grade for a Reggio-Emilia inspired school and is pursuing a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Her journey with writing online started after the birth of her first daughter in 2009. You can read Diana’s work on World Vision, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Christianity Today, Babble, Liberating Working Moms, Simple Homeschool, Mom.me, She Reads Truth, Still Standing Magazine, Yahoo, Military Family, Attachment Parenting International, and her own site Diana Wrote.
She’s spoken at the Influence Conference, on several podcasts like Happy, Healthy You and The Morning (episode 51), and a live panel with HuffPo. She’s also traveled alongside World Vision USA to both Zimbabwe and Ecuador to learn about maternal and infant mortality rates in 2015 and to help launch their Chosen program in 2019.
Her passion is advocating for women’s physical and mental health rights during and after the loss of a child at any stage. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org