Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things a person can go through. Losing a child is not something any parent should ever have to experience. Coping with grief after losing someone you love is not a black and white process.
It's messy, with many gray areas and more ups and downs than a roller-coaster. Some days you may feel like you're doing pretty good. Then suddenly, something happens and you're at the bottom of that pit again. Guess what? This is normal, and nothing is wrong with you!
"Little by little we let go of loss, but never of love."
Healing after loss will take time, and that amount of time is different for everyone. But as the days, weeks, and months move by, you'll start to find yourself again. And you truly will learn to let go of that loss. You'll find the light at the end of the tunnel.
The stages of grief:
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is widely known for defining the five stages of grief:
But grief, as anyone who has experienced it knows, does not follow this neat and tidy schedule. You may experience these steps in any order, or you might bounce between them repeatedly.
We all grieve differently and no two people's grieving process will be the same. This is to be expected and should not come as a surprise to you or worry you. Everyone will cope with their feelings in a different way and in a different time frame.
The key, though, is to allow yourself to feel all the feelings. Trying to force yourself not to feel a certain way because you're ashamed won't work, and you'll end up feeling even worse.
What if sadness isn't all I feel?
One thing I have told my loved ones that are coping with grief is this:
It is okay to feel something other than sadness when someone you love dies. It's okay to feel relief, too.
When my mom lost her husband, I told her this simple thing, and I had no idea the impact it would have on her. She needed to hear it because she was feeling some guilt for feeling relief along with her sadness.
PLEASE, do not feel this guilt! If you feel relieved that your loved one is no longer suffering, the only thing that means is that you deeply loved them. You should not feel guilty about that.
It's also okay to feel some relief if you were a primary caregiver for your loved one. Taking care of a person that is sick or dying is not easy. It taxes you, both physically and emotionally.
Feeling relief at the thought of not providing that care does not make you selfish. It doesn't mean that you would not have happily cared for that person every single day for the rest of your life if you could.
These are HARD things to talk about. Some people might not understand. But it's so important to know that you are not alone if you feel relief along with sadness.
Don't give up on yourself and your feelings.
You're going to move through those five stages, re-visit certain stages, and feel out of order for a while. You may even fight these the rest of your life. Me, personally, I still fight anger. Why did my daughter have to die? She was just a baby. What did she ever do to deserve what happened?
It's been more than seven years since we lost Sadie. And while I don't struggle with my grief regularly anymore, those feelings bubble up sometimes, and I think they probably always will. I have learned over time to re-focus my thoughts and energy. I direct it to something positive.
It's also okay to just cry. If that's what you feel like you need to do, do it. Only you know best what you need to do to handle the emotions you're feeling. Coping with grief means lots of crying sessions.
No matter what your feelings may be, feel them. Trust yourself. You will learn to navigate your grief and learn to heal. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. Grief has no timeline, and you're doing it right.
A resource coming soon.
Sometimes some of the best advice you can get comes from someone who has been where you are. I will never pretend that I know exactly how you feel because I truly believe that no one can know that.
But I can empathize with the pain of loss, and I want to offer help to those who need it. That's why I am so honored to partner with Jennifer Tracy of Redefine Your Mission for our Shop On Purpose project.
Jennifer has experienced grief and loss beyond what many people can imagine, and she works every day to help others overcome their own. She is a published author, accomplished public speaker, and advocate for many. She is my friend.
Our joint project will proudly offer resources for those currently navigating loss and grief, NICU life, and more. We are working hard to get this launched, and I will update this post with links as soon as things are ready.
Until then, know that we are on your team. We are here for you. We see you. Feel your feelings. You're doing just fine.