Still Standing

A New Year’s Resolution for the Grieving

Background Image from Mark Goebel on flickr.com. used under Creative Commons licence.

As another year passes, we have a new year just beginning. This is always a time to think of how to make changes, in a drive to improve ourselves and improve our lives. A time to put the past behind us, some people say, although if you are grieving, you know how hurtful that statement can be. If you’ve been thinking about resolutions, here are my thoughts for some New Year’s resolutions for the grieving.

1. I resolve not to “put the past behind me” but to let the past shape me.

The death of my child is not something I will get over, or put behind me. The death of my child made me who I am today. Honouring my child’s memory, honouring my feelings of sadness, anger and mourning, is not something I need to get past. My past is something that will shape me, both now and in the years to come. I resolve to let my child’s death shape who I am becoming. A more compassionate person. A more caring person. Yes, someone who is sad, sometimes a lot, but someone who lives each day for my child, even though they are not with me.

2. I resolve to give myself time to grieve.

This is another resolution people confuse with the concept of “putting the past behind them.” It is linked to the idea that there is a set time for grieving, and once that time is passed you are no longer allowed to express sadness, or anger, or melancholy. There is no set time for grief, which is why it is critical that you resolve to give yourself time for grief.

In those moments where you feel lost without your child, where you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, recognize that this is a necessary time to take care of your own needs. This is time to step out, to acknowledge your feelings and process them. It may take only a minute or two. It may take a day or longer. But just as we do not criticize ourselves for pausing our work to eat or sleep, we should not criticize ourselves for putting things on hold while we do our grief work.

3. I resolve to forgive.

The hardest resolution of all. In the New Year, can we resolve to forgive? To forgive each other the hurtful things we say and do. I can guarantee, if you’re reading this as a parent who has lost a child, someone in the past year has said something incredibly hurtful to you. Someone has cut to the bone with a passing comment. Maybe they cut you off from your social network for being “too depressed.” I guarantee someone has wounded your soul. Make 2018 the year of forgiveness. Make this year the year you acknowledge that we all make mistakes and that we need to embrace even those who hurt us, and hurt our child, if we want to heal.

4. I resolve to forgive myself.

I lied. The hardest resolution of all isn’t to forgive others, but to forgive ourselves. We lie awake at night, filling our minds with the things we would have done differently. I shouldn’t have done this. I should have done that. When you’ve lost a child, you can think of a million things you would have done differently, in a desperate hope to change the outcome. This year, resolve to stop blaming yourself. You are an incredible parent. You did nothing wrong. Your child loved you with all his or her heart. Would you change things? Maybe, but nothing is gained from punishing yourself. No one wanted this outcome. No one could have planned this outcome. You are loved and you are forgiven. You are the best parent in the world. Let forgiveness be your gift to yourself.

Do you have any other resolutions for grieving parents? Do you have any resolutions for the family/friends of grieving parents? Share them in the comments here, or on our Facebook page!

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Love this post? My book, Joy at the End of the Rainbow: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Loss was awarded second place in the 2017 American Journal of NursingBook of the Year Awards in the Consumer Health category. I’m kinda proud, so I hope you don’t mind a little bragging here!