Photo by – Ginny Limer
If there is one thing that I have learned since the death of my son, it is that you can create a Plan A, a Plan B, and even a Plan C, but inevitably Plan G happens. God’s plan. Life’s plan. The universe’s plan. Not your plan. You did not plan for this grief. No matter how your child may have died, you never planned for it to happen, never, ever, ever. You planned for milestones and memories, not heaviness and heartbreak. You planned to throw birthday and graduation parties for, not in honor of, your child. You and I certainly never planned to host a memorial or funeral for our precious children, but the memorials and funerals came, as will the milestones and special dates. Though your Plan A may be to avoid these dates and events, Plan G will force you to do otherwise. Be as prepared as you can, because the milestones are coming. Plan for them.
Plan to feel deflated.
Buy balloons or lanterns to release, even when you feel so deflated. Lift your spirits by sending birthday wishes to the heavens. Leave notes asking where each balloon lands and plot how far your love has traveled. Milestones like birthdays will leave you feeling empty, create a go-to list of inspiring activities to elevate your mood on such hard days.
Plan to feel the longing.
You long to photograph your baby smashing into his first cake while making a wish, or watch your daughter walk across the graduation stage to receive a diploma, but you cannot. It is excruciating, and you do not want to feel such pain, such longing. But the longing and pain remain, impatiently waiting to be embraced. Feel the longing. Feel that ugly pain, then turn those empty arms into helpful hands by planning to volunteer or donate on heavy-hearted days.
Plan to feel alone.
Whether you are celebrating with five or fifty people, prepare to feel isolated. Sit in the solitude for a minute, but remember to invite someone in when they knock at your heart’s door. When creating your list of attendees, invite members of your empty arms club as well as those within your playdate circle. Surround yourself with loved ones who will understand yet another one of your far-away looks. If you are attending a gathering, plan to send messages to an empathetic friend who can encourage you when you cannot cope. Turn the isolation into communication by opening-up to just one person and combat feeling alone on these hard days.
Plan to feel the absence.
Their absence is always present, but it is never as apparent as the days on which a milestone or special date occurs. When feeling their absence, conjure their essence. Think, “She would love …, if she was here” or “He would …, if he was here” and create, buy, or do that which brings you closer to their spirit.
Plan a self-pity party.
Grief is no game yet somehow you will feel defeated and beaten. Victory over the grief does not come easily, or quickly, perhaps never. Claim small victories over your grief by succumbing to it. Succumb to overcome. Wallow in your deepest pains. Hug yourself. Write yourself an apology letter. Cry in the shower. Scream in the car. Dismantle your garage. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself. Host a pity party for one when feeling antisocial.
Plan to cry.
Tears are the heart’s soul-filled music, let them fall. Wail, bawl, and sing your broken heart out. Create a playlist of songs that will help you express the range of emotions that you will feel on your most painful days.
Plan for anger.
Plan to get mad at your grief and take offense of its vulgar display of power over your emotions. Be pissed, gather some anger, and break something. Be sure to create something beautiful from the destruction, find treasure within the ruins. Use your anger to propel you forward, especially on days when you are taking two steps back.
Plan for grief.
When the milestones arrive, plan for sadness. Consider it to be on the menu for the day. Eat a small portion, or stuff yourself with grief. It’s your choice. Keep in mind that it is best to eat in moderation. It takes longer to recover when your stuff yourself.
Grief is as unpredictable as the initial loss itself. It was never your Plan A. It was never in your plans at all, but now it’s all consuming. Plan how you will feed your grief. Plan how you will feel your grief. Plan for the agony of grief to appear at the most unexpected, inconvenient times, and plan for pain when facing those predictable life milestones without the one you love.
Ginny Limer is a mother of five, teacher, and adventurer from Fort Worth, Texas. She founded Scared Sidless, a 501(c)3 nonprofit in order to support bereaved families, unite grieving siblings, and promote a lifestyle of creative, healthy grieving. Just as you exhale grief, Ginny encourages you to inhale hope.