Grief Calligraphy by ©

Do More Than Survive The First Year After Loss

March 1, 2017

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They did not survive. I did.

Having lost our daughter at 3 days old and then my mother through suicide just four and a half month later I often doubted I would survive this emotional intensity called grief. I was tired of living. I was exhausted of the emotional rollercoaster. Yet suicide was totally out of the question for me as I was acutely aware of the emotional turmoil my mother had left behind in the family surviving her self-chosen death and I was absolutely clear of the important role I played as the mother to my other child.

Did I do more than survive?

How did I survive the first year? I wonder as I’m looking back. Big sigh. Something in me knows but somehow my memory can’t take me there because it’s not necessary to re-live those days? I don’t know. I find it hard to recall the time besides certain moments that have carved their mark on my soul. Luckily I ofter wrote so I can go and read about it. Journal entries, notes to my friends and family, emails, poems and I wrote a blog. All these writings are what lead to friends encouraging me to write a book.

Writing a book wasn’t part of my life’s aspiration. I regularly wrote articles as part of my professional website as a psychotherapist. Even though I had no idea on what writing a book would entail, I knew everything could be learned. Fast forward to today I have written and self-published three books and am working on a non-for-profit community project book. The fourth book I’ll be publishing will be an anthology containing the writing of many mothers and fathers like you. They describe the challenges of the first year after the loss, an account of how they managed to survive.

Having just emerged from reading the submissions we’ve received I was taken on a journey back into the experience of the first year. Not just mine but in fact over 50 mothers’ and fathers’ experiences that they candidly shared with me. These essays took my breath away, left me gasping for air and drying my tears. Even though each parent’s experience is unique I could relate, as a mother, as a bereaved mother and as a human being, touched by their loss in the many faceted challenges it brings.

Grief Calligraphy by © www.nathaliehimmelrich.comWhat I didn’t fully realise when calling for submissions for this new book, was the potential for healing that this project offers. Writing and its healing potential has been researched widely (for example here and here) but reading the essays I noticed so much more. I remember now that I had already noticed this when doing the research and interviews for my first book Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. The intense involvement with my own and other people’s stories, their ways in which they confronted and handled challenges and what happened inside of me in effect to all of this offered a huge shift in my grief towards healing. And it won’t end with me because given the end product is a book many people will receive; it offers this potential to all those who read it.

Please share yourself

This article is not about marketing the book but about encouraging you to find an outlet for what you’re experiencing while grieving. Sharing your story, reflecting on the challenges and even more specifically how you’ve found hope in the face of adversity, that opens the door to healing. Change happens one conversation at the time. Your writing is a conversation with that which is going on inside and bringing it out into the open.

Are you nervous about writing? Then you can start by doodling, drawing, making a collage, or follow prompts that are offered, for example, as part of May We All Heal, another community project focusing on healthy grieving and healing.

The benefit is unimaginable and unless you try it, you don’t know.
Is it easy? No. Is it worthwhile? For sure.
Don’t just survive, thrive.

Information about a new resource for bereaved parents:

The community of the Grieving Parents Support (GPS) Network is currently creating a new resource for newly bereaved mothers and fathers. The book is called The First Year After the Loss of my Child and contains essays of bereaved mothers and fathers about the challenges they met and how they dealt with them. The book will be published in September 2017. If you’d like to stay informed and hear about future projects you can join, please subscribe here:

To find out more about the project May We All Heal, please read here.

Please also read:

The Nicest Thing To Say or Do After Loss

  • Nathalie Himmelrich the author of a number of resource books for bereaved parents. As a relationship coach, grief recovery expert and bereaved mother herself she believes that relationships (intimate and to 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. Find Nathalie's books here: Nathalie Himmelrich or the Grieving Parents Support Network here: Grieving Parents


    • Adrienne

      May 24, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Oh, my. I don’t know how you did it, but I do know what you mean. I feel that no matter what comes my way I will find a way to deal with it. It doesn’t make things like losing someone any easier, though. My heart goes out to you and I admire you at the same time.

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