How Using One 3-Letter-Word Changed My Grief (And My Life)
After I experienced back-to-back back losses of my babies, my emotions were intense – much like a roller coaster going up and down without warning. The emotions were dynamic, not linear as I thought grief would be. I felt numbness, detachment, sadness, anger, bitterness, regret, and so many more emotions related to heartbreak.
As life continued to barrel forward (much to my dismay), I knitted grief and sadness into the fabric of a life without my children. My babies’ stories became part of me and part of my new normal. My comfort zone remained within the emotions of the sad spectrum. I had become familiar with these emotions and felt they adequately represented where I should be in missing my children.
Related: When Grief Takes Work And Time
Four months after our second loss I started to see glimpses of light shining through the darkness. I began to smile at friendly faces and to laugh at my husband’s bad jokes again. I realized my emotions and the way I was reacting outside of our home was how I wanted others to perceive me. Many family and friends had “moved on” and didn’t ask or talk about my babies anymore. How did they not realize that I still missed them more than anything?
I clung to the solace of all my sad feelings, in part as a way to prove to my family and friends how much I still hurt.
Don’t get me wrong, I did still hurt—a lot. However, I was beginning to see rays of light again. It was difficult for me to let go of those deep grief emotions I found so comforting. Was it okay to feel moments of happiness even though my babies were still gone? The shadow of guilt from feeling happiness and joy after loss began to follow me around.
As grief evolved and the months wore on, all the sorrowful emotions were juxtaposed in my mind with the newer happy emotions that were emerging.
My mind fought between them, often with the sad emotions winning out. It didn’t make sense that I felt both sad about losing my babies yet happy that, from their loss, we developed good friends at our local support group.
It took me years to discover the one small word I was missing in my emotional vocabulary: and. Why can’t I feel happy AND sad?
What if I gave myself permission to feel the full range of emotions, even if they are contradictory?
Accepting the duality of emotions and balancing the conflicting feelings has changed my grief and, in turn, my life.
It has required diligent practice to be able to hold contradictory emotions together in my mind. Incorporating that small three letter word ‘and’ while allowing myself to feel opposing feelings has freed me in so many ways. It has allowed me to let go of the anxiety and guilt caused by trying to hold onto the sadness I still feel after losing two of my children. More so, adding the word and allows me to accept the range of emotions I feel at any given time.
I can be happy that I had the chance to meet both of my babies who passed and I can be sad that they passed. I can be excited for a rainbow baby and anxious for the prospect of loving a baby that isn’t the baby I lost. I can be unhappy that I lost two of my children and fortunate that their loss brought their baby sister.
What would happen if you gave up the struggle to feel one emotion at a time? What are the multiple emotions you feel pushing and pulling you in different directions right now? What if you let yourself feel the depth and range of contradictory feelings? Losing a child is contradictory to nature after all. By adding the small word and to your emotional vocabulary you can give yourself permission to feel every emotion, no matter how conflicting they may seem. I hope this little word gives you the relief and acceptance that it has brought to me.
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