Having published my book ‘Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple’ a year ago and being weeks away from having the book published in its German translation, I’ve been reminded at the vulnerability it brings: Having my name out there, my opinions, my story, my suggestions – they all leave room for criticism.
The idea of having your most vulnerable time of your life neatly packaged in 200 odd pages for the whole world to read can bring up fear, as I was reminded in a recent conversation with a fellow grief coach, who is contemplating putting her story into a book. I said: “fear has a role of protection” and “have a conversation with the fear” which I thought was a great suggestion for myself too – maybe even for you?
Here is mine:
We need to talk. You’ve been with me on and off all my life. I know you protect me from pain, hurt and disappointment. I get it. I appreciate your concern and caring protection.
Whereas in the past you visited from time to time, it seems now you’ve moved in permanently.
In the past few years since the death of my child and my mother you’ve become ever present. I can feel you in my bones. I can feel you in my recurring thoughts, day and night. It’s draining my energy to have you live here with me. Is it that you feel I can’t continue living without you?
You’ve been with me, holding me while I held my daughter as she passed away and you sent your companions ‘numbness’ and ‘shock’ to ease the pain. It worked for a while… Until I noticed that I couldn’t avoid the pain. Even if you would have done anything for me to avoid it, it wasn’t possible on the long run.
You kept me at home, under the duvet, ignored calls for me and had me stare blankly into the world. You’re with me, every step of the way, alongside my parenting journey. I can even see you in my husband’s eyes, hear you in his ‘be careful, or you’ll hurt yourself’ sentences. You’re right by my side in every step my daughter takes and you make me scream at her for fear she might get hurt – and for fear that I would get hurt in the process of it. That’s when you send your colleague ‘self-judgement’ to come in right after you’ve done your job.
What you couldn’t turn away was the hurt I felt from someone’s thoughtless comments. Friends have disappeared and you make me wonder what I might have done wrong. You’re worried I’ll end up old and lonely. At times you’ve even gently suggested not to mention my daughter, when the question asked was: “Is this your only child?”
You’re present when I talk, walk and even when I sleep. You tell me to become better again, to become a nice sociable person again, or people won’t like me. I worry more, sleep less, question more, think deeper.
‘Anger’ isn’t your friend, nor colleague or companion. You’re afraid of the anger because you can no longer control me, while he’s around. You fear the things I’d do or say when the anger is around. You fear the people that will leave me for my anger. You make me afraid of my anger and its destructive tendency.
As much as I appreciate your concern and care, you’ve also kept me from stepping out and doing things, trying things in a new way. As true as it is that I’m tired of pain and hurt, I also need to be brave to make a difference, to continue living boldly and allow my daughter to do just the same.
How can we find a way together?
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.