In the beginning, after my daughter died, my mind was a mess of thoughts. They were very much connected to feelings of anger, jealousy, vindictiveness, and the like. Many of these emotions were unfamiliar to me in any sort of continuous pattern, and I was thrown off guard by them. They further served to isolate me from others; I cocooned myself away into my own world. A world that I now defined as the before me and the after me.
I realize now that this was not helpful to think of such a separation of myself into these two beings. I was still the same person, even though I had experienced something so monumentally painful and heartbreaking. It brought up this idea that I had that I was static, that I did not change. But no one stays exactly the same. We are all shifting every day, sometimes every moment of every day. That is the one constant.
I did not like the thoughts that I had in the beginning of my grief when I would see pregnant women who looked blissfully happy or families with two kids or even friends that had seemingly perfect lives. I did not recognize the person who had these thoughts, and I instantly felt bad. I thought I was a horrible person for having them. I stopped going on social media sites as there were so many triggers everywhere. I withdrew.
But what I have come to realize is that these thoughts were perfectly normal. That just because I had them did not mean that I wanted them to happen. They did not mean that I wanted anyone to experience such immense pain. But rather my mind was processing in its own way to make sense of the world and the question of “why me.”
I found mindfulness meditation and began to practice daily, setting aside time to be with my thoughts and to watch them come and then let them go. I started to label the thoughts as judgments or planning or past or future. I became more aware of my thoughts as they appeared not only during this time but throughout the day. I began to see that we truly are not the thoughts that come into our heads. We cannot control them and to try to do so is futile.
I started to surrender to my grief, to let the waves of sadness and anger pass over me without trying to hold them inside. When an emotion arose, I tried to feel it and stay with it instead of pushing it away. I’ve found that it means that my tears flow much more freely now. And while this can lead to awkwardness with others, I try not to judge myself in these moments and to understand that my tears are a symbol of my love for my daughter and for myself.
So, if you find yourself living in the past or in the future, remember that you do not have to attempt to push these thoughts out of your mind. You can embrace them instead. In so doing, you can start to let them go, to let some of the power of those thoughts leave your mind. Remember that our thoughts do not define us; they are separate from who we are. Be mindful of them and slowly your grief may get lighter to bear.
Photo by Sara Schmidt