In the first few weeks and months after my daughter died, I felt lost in a world that no longer made sense. I had a hard time concentrating on anything for any length of time. The urge to physically do something, anything, was palpable. I wanted to run or to do yoga. But my body was broken and in pain, taking months to recover from a traumatic birth.
My thoughts kept returning to the life I thought I would have; the life of learning the complexities of juggling both a newborn and a toddler. I was supposed to be figuring out how to nurse, how to soothe, how to sleep, and interpreting my daughter’s various cries.
I did not go back to work right away. Instead of learning how to live my new life with two living children, I was left to drive myself crazy with my grief. I had nothing to do but grieve, but I didn’t know how to grieve. My world before included very little experience with grief and none with grieving the death of a child.
I did not know at the time that there was no one path, that there were so many different ways to grieve. And so, I frequently wondered, “Am I doing this right?”
Many days, I would think to myself, “What am I doing?” “Is this what grieving looks like?” “Do my tears serve a purpose?” I also had new questions and worries. “How do I answer my toddler’s questions about her little sister? Just how honest can I be?” “How do I parent a child that is no longer on this earth?”
Unable to exercise or read, my mind wandered. I kept replaying my daughter’s birth and death over and over in my head. The why’s, what if’s and if only’s threatened to take over my very existence. And while I knew that asking these questions was a part of the grieving process, I also recognized that I was drowning. I needed a reprieve, a way to calm my mind. I didn’t care about anything else. The news or television shows or books held no meaning for me. I discovered ways to focus my mind elsewhere through dot-to-dot puzzles and adult coloring books which provided moments of peace.
In those first few months, I wanted to physically do something with my grief, to create something tangible. So, I built a dollhouse, one of those intricate kits with a million pieces. Sanding, painting, wallpapering, shingling the roof were all involved. I did not build things in my life before, but I was drawn to this idea of creating a dollhouse as a physical representation of my grief. The dollhouse was built in my daughter’s nursery. And I found that my thoughts could be quieted during this project, while I attempted to create something out of my grief. My living daughter watched me over the many months that I worked on it, asking questions about what I was doing. I think she could sense the importance of my project which I intend to give to her someday.
Telling my story over and over again was helpful in the beginning. Through sharing my story with the people who were in my life including new connections with bereaved mamas as well as during support group meetings, I learned that there is healing through the story. I discovered that words have power, the power to amplify the pain or to bring a semblance of peace.
Two and a half months after my daughter died, I participated in a writing challenge, Capture Your Grief, that I attribute as setting me on my path towards healing. It was at this time that I began to share my writing with my family and friends through social media, a tool I had not utilized much in my past. I found it oddly therapeutic to bare my soul and truly reflect on my emotions. It lessened some of the isolation and brought a little purpose back into my life. Writing is a tool that I utilize almost daily that continues to connect me with my daughter.
There is no right way to grieve. A few of the things that I have found to be healing in the last fourteen months include talking to other bereaved parents, sharing my daughter’s story, letting my tears fall, sitting under my maple tree in the backyard, dot-to-dot puzzles, building a dollhouse, reading, writing, and photography. I discovered a passion for taking pictures of the sunrises and sunsets, trying to capture the beauty in the sky. As I slowly recovered physically, running, walking, hiking in nature, and yoga became things that I could do where I felt my daughter’s spirit.
Grieving is as unique as each individual. No two people will grieve the same. So, whenever you think that you are doing this whole grieving thing wrong, ask yourself if what you are doing is helping you to find peace and to feel connected to your child. There is no one way; you must find what works for you. And that can change over time. So please know wherever you are in your grief process, you are doing it right.