Learning to express the feelings that weigh us down in grief without having to apologize for them is vitally important in coming to terms with the death of our child or loved one.
It doesn’t matter whether we tell a friend or stranger, speak it out loud in the forest or into the wind, or write it down to then burn the paper. It’s the fact that we’re willing to speak our truth.
To tell about our past, our loss, and our pain is cathartic. This simple yet oh-so-difficult act loosens trauma’s fierce grip on our heart. And because it’s therapeutic, it can free us and help us to heal.
That’s why keeping grief secrets harms us. Grief secrets — the thoughts we’re ashamed of or frighten us, and so don’t want others to know — have a way of calcifying our trauma.
Freeing ourselves of these secrets allows us to move forward towards acceptance, self-care, and self-compassion.
To that end, in Tell Us: Grief And The Secrets We Keep published two weeks ago, I asked you to share your grief secrets anonymously.
The response was overwhelming.
We, at Still Standing Magazine, wish to thank those of you who told us your secrets. The ‘submit your secret’ form will remain online until the end of June for anyone who’d like to share what is weighing heavy on their heart.
Below, with kind permission, are a selection of the grief secrets you sent us.
SELECTION OF READERS’ GRIEF SECRETS
“Most people think our son died of SIDS. I know the reason he died is because we co-slept, and he rolled over in the middle of the night and suffocated against my pillow. A few people know what really happened but I don’t tell anyone else the truth. That’s because I already carry the blame and responsibility myself. I wouldn’t be able to take more from other people.”
“I didn’t go into my 17-year-old son’s room that night to check on him. He’d come home drunk and I was angry. I didn’t want to confront him again about his and his friends’ drinking. I’m a nurse and work long hours. I was tired. He died of an overdose that night in his room. I’ll always wonder if I’d gone in to see how he was, whether I might have saved him. He died as I was sleeping just two doors down the hall. I’ll never get over the guilt.”
“I went to a private shooting range where we put up a milk jug filled with water and a picture of my child’s killer on the front. I am the better marksman and no matter how I tried, I could not hit the target. My husband hit it with his first shot.”
“I don’t know what to do with all my rage. I feel like I hate my own family because they don’t hurt as much as I do.”
“I will carry the guilt of not trusting my mother intuition for the rest of my life although I know there wasn’t anything anyone could have done to fix her heart.”
“I smoked cigarettes while I was pregnant. My son was stillborn at 38 weeks 5 days. A doctor said that’s not why he was born still. Yet, how could I have done that? I feel like I killed my baby. It consumes me every day.”
“When I see women talking about waiting to get pregnant and trying in a couple of years, I secretly hope that they can’t get pregnant.”
“I feel guilty for not spending quality time with my daughter during the divorce. I look up to the sky everyday and tell her sorry.”
“I found out recently that someone I used to know had lost her child. She’d avoided me after my son died. My cousin told me that this woman thought it was my fault my son had drowned. Even though I felt bad for her, I was kind of glad that she now knew how horrible it was to lose a child. I hate that losing my own child has made me so bitter.”
“I can’t stand to look at my husband. I blame him for our daughter’s death.”
“I did say this out-loud to someone once but now I just cringe and think it: Anytime someone complains about their life problems such as losing a job, screaming grandchildren, sick or rebellious children… I want to say ‘Oh Shut Up! At Least Your Teenage Daughter Isn’t Dead!’ ”
“I lost my son at 18 weeks. I get so angry when my friends with babies complain to me about how they don’t get any sleep, and they have no time to themselves. I would give up all my sleep and time to have my son back.”
“I don’t tell my family how I feel any more and we’ve grown distant. They think that my grief in losing a child is like any other grief and I should be over it by now. I hate how self-righteous they are instead of asking me how I really feel. It maddens me that they’ve got an opinion on something they know nothing about.”
“I want the killer to suffer, to really suffer horribly. My grief is making me crazy. It’s not who I am but it’s who I’ve become.”
“I was angry most nights that I had to wake up to feed and change my baby girl. It wasn’t her fault I was a single mom but I resented her anyway. Maybe it is good that she died before I injured her.”
“After 4 years of infertility, our miracle, naturally-conceived son had Limb Body Wall Complex. He was not compatible with life. We chose to terminate. That’s not my secret. My secret is that the D&C didn’t go to plan. With the meds, I ended up delivering him in a toilet. My precious bub ended up flushed… no better than a gold fish.”
“I knew our son wasn’t going to come home. I don’t know how I knew he wouldn’t live, it was just a passing thought that I waved away. I can never tell my husband, as I don’t know how he’d take it, and I feel so much guilt.”
“I would give my husband up to have my daughters back.”
“I don’t say this any more because people thought I’d become some kind of revenge person but I’d like them to take all the killers and rapists and drop them in the ocean so they’d drown. I think that would make me feel better. He raped her, killed her and mutilated her body. He doesn’t deserve pity. I don’t see why my taxes should pay for his food and prison cell.”
“I feel jealous of other parents who get to see their children grow up and go through the stages of life. And I feel bad that I do. But I do.”
“Since the death of my 28-year-old son my dreams have been very disturbing. I feel like I am stressing in my dream. I wake up very sad every morning.”
“I should have paid more attention to what she was not saying yet was saying in her lack of words. But I was too busy focusing on my own issues in my own life to see her problems. I guess I always thought she would just tell me, me, her mother. She called me her best friend. I was not listening, so I left her there. And then he took her life from me, from her. All she wanted was for him to be happy, she told me that. But she also told me she needed to leave, though she never told me she was afraid to leave, or maybe she did in her lack of words. I wasn’t listening. I should have heard what she was trying to say in her silence. I am left now with this guilt that equals my grief .”
“Guilt… I was not there to protect him.. I did not know what others had done to him..”
“I should have told him to come down to see us. But I was busy and he was busy and so I didn’t. And three days later he was killed. I always think, what if he’d come to visit? I know it’s not my fault, but somehow I can’t help think that.”
“I pushed him so hard to get his High School diploma and he really struggled. It was so hard for him. All those hours spent studying. When he died I felt so bad. I wish he’d have gone out with his friends and had fun. His life was so short and stressed and I kept making him study because I was worried about his future. All for nothing. I wish he’d have enjoyed his youth and I’d seen him smile more.”
“My husband and 10-year-old were killed outright in a car accident. I was told the accident was my husband’s fault. At their funeral I could not cry. I was too angry. I wanted my husband not to be dead so I could shake him so hard that it would be me who killed him.”
“My daughter was depressed and so I insisted she take the medication the psychiatrist prescribed her because I trusted what the doctor said. Shortly afterwards she killed herself. I’ve now read up about the drugs she was given and I think that’s what drove her over the edge. She wasn’t suicidal before she started on the medication. I can’t get it our of my head that it’s my fault that she was on the pills that made her end her life.”
“My adopted daughter died of cancer when she was 8. We had her buried in the cemetery in the town where we lived at the time. Years later we moved country because of my husband’s work. I felt I was abandoning her like her birth mother had done. I still feel guilty about leaving her and us moving away. I always told her that I would never leave her but I did.”
“I don’t care if I die. The pain is unbearable and I’m so tired of feeling this way. I don’t tell my family this because I don’t want to hurt them. They would be really sad to think that my love for them was not a good enough reason for me to want to live. So I pretend I’m OK.”
The ‘submit your secret’ form will remain online until the end of June for anyone who’d like to share what is weighing heavy on their heart.
ADDITIONAL GRIEF SECRET SHARE
The co-authors of What’s Your Grief, a grief website run by mental-health professionals reached out in their desire to collaborate with Still Standing Magazine on the subject of grief secrets. They launched an online and postal Grief Secret Challenge in May. Submissions received by them before 18th June 2019 may be shared with grief professionals at the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference.
Katja Faber is the mother of three amazing children. Following her 23-year-old son’s murder, she used her legal training to work closely with private lawyers and the State Prosecutor in her fight for justice for her dead son. She hopes to inspire others in seeking justice for their loved ones and through her writing break the taboo of homicide loss and child loss grief. She runs her own farm, a magical place where she hosts private retreats for those in need of support and healing. Katja is a certified Compassionate Bereavement Care® counselor through the Center for Loss and Trauma in partnership with the MISS Foundation and the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Family Trust.
To read her story, blog and further articles by Katja do please follow the link to her dedicated webpage in honor of her son KatjaFaber.com or alternatively read her articles on Still Standing Magazine’s author page. You can also connect with Katja on her FB writer’s page.
Katja’s continuing fight for justice for her son Alex is on Twitter. Her farming IG account where she reflects on daily life in the country and the healing process of grief is on Instagram.