Grief Is As Individual As A Fingerprint

It’s a nearly universal human tendency to try to fit another’s experience into our own.

Even though I try hard not to, I still often find myself saying things like, “I know just how you feel” or, “This worked for me, it ought to work for you”.

Trouble is, grief is as individual as a fingerprint.

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The life that was shared before loss, the circumstances surrounding the loss, family structure, support systems (or lack thereof!), age, social connections, faith, friends and fears all shape how a particular person experiences and processes loss.

  • Some of us have safe people in our circle and can talk things out with them.
  • Others need a professional counselor to work through specific trauma associated with loss.
  • Still others are internal processors and require lots and lots of time alone.
  • One heart finds comfort pouring over old photographs and watching old videos.
  • The next can’t bear to look at any of it.
  • Exercise strengthens him but drains her.
  • Social situations paralyze some of us and help pull others out of our shell.
  • Frequent graveside visits are a means of connection for one person and only a reminder of death to another.

The list could go on and on.

So I’ll say it again:

However you make it through this Valley is just fine. There’s no right way or wrong way to grieve.

As long as you are not harming yourself or others (physically or emotionally) then carry on, dear heart.

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Children’s Grief Awareness Day

Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day.

I’m thankful a day is set aside to focus on children’s grief because it’s so easy for their grief to be overlooked, underrated and even dismissed.

Grown ups often tout the line, “Kids are resilient. They will adapt.”

And while it’s true that from the OUTSIDE it might look like a child is OK or even thriving, on the INSIDE she may be curled up into a ball or he may be angry and resentful.

Sometimes these feelings find unhealthy expression through addiction or risky behavior. Sometimes they simply grow into a giant overwhelming shadow that darkens the child’s whole world.

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My own mother’s mama died suddenly from a stroke when she was only ten years old. Within days, Mama was whisked away from everyone and everything she knew to live with her oldest married sister.

No one understood then that children needed to grieve so Mama never really did.

At least not out loud where anyone could hear.

But that grief informed her entire life-it made her kinder to many people and made it harder for her to develop deep attachments to others. She was only able to talk about it in the last couple of years of her life when failing health, my own loss and many hours spent in hospital rooms together created safe spaces for her to share.

Children grieve whether we observe it or not.

Children need safe spaces to express that grief even when it hurts our hearts to hear the words or see the tears.

No child should have to wait until they are grown to acknowledge his pain or her brokenness.

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Just like we parents, surviving siblings grieve what they’ve lost AND what will never be. Graduations, weddings, new babies, holidays, birthdays and other occasions mark their hearts too.

Children bear other burdens as well.

They are often targeted by those outside the grief circle for updates on the family while their own grief goes unnoticed. After five years, my kids have developed a standard answer to the question, “How’s your mom doing?”

“About as well as you’d expect.”

Next.

Sometimes children feel they must be extra good and extra quiet in an effort to make up for the sadness in a home after the death of a child. Sometimes they take on adult roles, shouldering responsibilities a depressed or grieving parent can’t manage right now. Sometimes they struggle with misplaced guilt when their hearts are jealous of all the attention focused on the missing child.

Often they just wish things were back to how they were before tragedy struck.

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Your children may never tell you these things unless you ask.

And they may not confirm them even if you do.

But rest assured, they are grieving too.

Give them permission to do it out loud.

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Holidays 2019: Practical Ideas for Dealing With Holidays After Child Loss

It cannot be overstated:  holidays are extremely hard after loss.  Every family gathering highlights the hole where my son SHOULD be, but ISN’T.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to handle the holidays after losing a child.

For many, there is only survival-especially the very first year.

These days also stir great internal conflict:  I want to enjoy and celebrate my living children and my family still here while missing my son that isn’t. Emotions run high and are, oh so difficult to manage.

So I’m including some ideas from other bereaved parents on how they’ve handled the holidays.  Many of these suggestions could be adapted for any “special” day of the year.

Not all will appeal to everyone nor will they be appropriate for every family.  But they are a place to start.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/04/practical-ideas-for-dealing-with-the-holidays-after-child-loss/

Holidays 2019: What The Bereaved Need From Friends And Family

This is the most shared post on the site.

When I wrote it, I was writing my personal feelings after a couple of years trying to fumble through holidays with friends and family. It was an honest expression of how hard it was and continues to be to navigate the stress-filled season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

I’m not sure I’ve grown any more skillful in fitting all the pieces together-especially as our family grows and moves in different directions-but I continue striving to keep the lines of communication open and to try to acknowledge and accommodate everyone’s needs as best I can.


“I know it is hard.
  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/03/grief-and-holidayswhat-the-bereaved-need-from-friends-and-family/

Holidays 2019: Grief, Holidays And Hard Conversations

One of the things I’m learning in this journey is that people are much more likely to listen and be willing to make accommodations for my tender heart if I approach them BEFORE the “big day”-whatever that may be.

And yes, it seems unfair that those of us carrying a load of grief are also the ones that have to alert others to the load we’re carrying, but that’s simply the way it is.

They don’t know what they don’t know.

So, if you need to change things around consider speaking up NOW instead of huffing off LATER.

Here are some tips on how to approach those hard conversations: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/02/grief-holidays-and-hard-conversations/

Holidays 2019: Blessing The Brokenhearted

The question is starting to pop up with greater frequency in our closed bereaved parent groups: How do you make it through the holidays after child loss?

So for the next few days I’m going to share again from the many posts I’ve written in the past four years addressing different aspects of holiday planning, celebration, family dynamics and just plain survival for grieving parents and those who love them.

❤ Melanie

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2015/11/19/season-of-joy-blessing-the-brokenhearted-during-the-holidays/

Repost: Why “Just Think About All The Good Memories” Doesn’t Comfort My Heart

I pull out the memories like treasures from a locked strongbox.

“Handle With Care” because they are all I have left.

But they are not enough.

They will never be enough to satisfy this mama’s heart.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/15/why-just-think-about-all-the-good-memories-doesnt-comfort-my-heart/