Five years ago I did not think I would make it through this. Five years ago I struggled more than I ever had in life. Five years ago I could not imagine that I would survive. Five years ago I did not dream I could ever feel joy and happiness again. Here are nine things I wish I could have told myself five years ago when my son died.
1. It’s OK not to be OK.
You are not the same person that you were before. I know you can hardly look at yourself in the mirror. You do not feel the same; your outlook has changed, nothing feels right. Because it isn’t. You feel like everyone wants the ‘old’ you. The one with the loud laugh, the constant smile, the encourager and the energy that rarely stopped. It is OK not to be OK right now. Sit with the sadness and know that you will not always feel this way. Yes, you will always have a hole in your heart and a piece of yourself missing, but the sun will shine again and you will find pieces of yourself that you recognize. You do not believe me now, but I promise you will. For now though, it is OK not to be OK.
2. It is OK to laugh and smile and even feel happy.
I know you feel guilty to feel this way but you do not have to. There are still good moments in this life, and when you encounter them it is OK to feel them. I know you feel like you wish you would have died instead of him, so you think you do not deserve to feel happy. But, you do. Little by little you will smile again. You will surprise yourself when you laugh; when it comes, lean into it. You might just feel him laugh with you.
3. It is OK to share your story.
Your story is sacred. It is a story of love and life. No, it is not the story you wish you could tell, but it still has meaning. Do not let anyone stop you from sharing. If they cannot handle listening to it and sitting with it then it says more about them than it does about you. Never let anyone stifle one of the greatest stories of love ever written. It is your story to tell, so when you are ready, share it.
Related: Your Still Beautiful Story
4. It is OK to guard your heart.
Sometimes sharing comes with unexpected responses. People do not know what to say, some say stupid things, others run the other way and yet some are so caring and appropriate. When people ask how many children you have, you tell them what you can. If you cannot tell the full story on that day, it is OK. Not everyone can be trusted with our stories. You will come to know who will hold them just as sacred as you. It is OK to protect your heart in whatever way that means for you on that day. Block stories on Facebook, avoid certain places and people, etc. Your heart is raw and although it will not always be this tender, for now, guard it in whatever way you need to.
5. Your husband, he cares; he is grieving, just not in the same way you are.
I know you feel like you are drifting apart but try to talk to each other. Listen to him. He may not be saying what you want him to say or doing what you wish he would do, but he is saying and doing what he feels and thinks is right. He is trying in his own way to grieve and be present. No one can do the ‘right’ thing right now, especially him. Just be patient, offer grace and you will see that you will become stronger and will love deeper than you could ever have imagined very soon.
6. You will be surprised by those who stand by your side.
And you will be surprised who cannot. You will find out who your true friends are. You will see who can sit in the mess with you and then walk with you as you find your way. Some of those are complete strangers to you now, others you have known a long time. The others who cannot be with you are not bad people, they just cannot be present right now. They mean well, but grief and sadness may not be something they are able to embrace. Your new friends may be with you for the rest of your life or they may walk through this season and then move another way. It is all OK. Be grateful for those who have been with you, are with you now and those who will come in the future. Friendship is a gift no matter how long it lasts.
7. I know it hurts now and feels like life is over.
It will continue to hurt, but in different ways and at different times, but life will be good again. You said it feels like you have been knocked over by a tsunami. I can tell you now it feel like the tide comes in only on certain days. You will find your footing again. It is unsteady and unnerving, but your life isn’t over. You are writing a new chapter. A chapter that knows pain and heartbreak and grief, but a chapter that knows undying love that always carries on. His story is not over. Neither is yours.
Related: Going Beyond Hurt Feelings
8. Love is a powerful force and can do amazing things.
You are so full of love right now with no outlet to express it. You want to cradle a baby, feed a baby, get up in the middle of the night for a baby. You want to care and comfort and right now you have nothing. No baby. No dreams. No future. But, you do have love. We grieve because we love. Sit with it, let it envelope and cover you. It is a love you will never share with anyone else other than your child. Love will transform you, propel you and lead you forward. You have no idea what it can do, but hold on to it. You will see. I promise.
9. You will make it through this.
It will be hard. It will be messy. It will be beautiful. It will be life-giving. Take it minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day. Hold on to those who can walk the journey with you. Let go of the things that do not matter. Your perspective has been enlarged. Your heart has shattered but it is becoming a new creation. The sun is going to rise again and you will rise with it. You will be surprised. But you will make it through this. I promise. You will.
Photo Credit: Pexels/Pixabay
DeAndrea is a wife, mother of three beautiful children, and the Founder and Executive Director of A Memory Grows, a 501(c)(3) based in Fort Worth, Texas that provides retreats and events for parents who are grieving the death of their child.