When Grief Sneaks Up On You

Dependable routine is one of my most important coping mechanisms.

I like slipping from one familiar chore to the next without thinking.

It keeps my mind busy in an effortless way that leaves little room for random thoughts, little space for grief-inducing memories to sneak in and trip me up.

Change Aversion And The Conflicted User - Usability Geek

Change is really not my friend.

Still, change is upon me (and millions of others!) because of this virus. So I’m doing the best I can to cope.

Instead of a house to myself, now my husband is working from home. Instead of quiet mornings alone, conference calls echo off the walls and follow me out open windows to the yard. Instead of before dark breakfast and early lunch with the kitchen closed by noon, I eat early, he eats later, I eat lunch and he eats supper. Kitchen open til eight.

None of those are things I can’t get used to.

After all, I’m blessed he’s here, has a job and we have not only enough to eat but a wide variety . I like cooking and love finding creative uses for leftovers.

Creative Ways to Use Leftovers - Bites for Foodies

What no one but me knows about all the change is this: I’m walking places I tend not to go-in the house, in the yard, down our paths-and every place I set my foot holds memories I’ve been avoiding.

When we moved an old pen a couple weeks ago for new chickens we found a rusty chain attached to its base. While my husband and son were digging it out to use again I was transported to the day Dominic moved the pen years ago with the tractor. It was just me and him and he was a little perturbed with me that I needed it moved. I saw him in my mind’s eye plain as day on the tractor. I could hear his baritone voice above the trusty thrum of the engine and picture him hopping down from the seat, unhooking the chain and driving off to park the tractor.

It was a flash. Here and gone in an instant. But the rest of the day I suffered from a grief hangover that I just couldn’t shake.

These are challenging days.

So much of the routine I depend on to guide me through has been shredded. So many of the habits I’ve developed over years are unavailable right now.

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So I’m doing the best I can.

One day and one memory at a time.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Repeat.

Grieving While Working: Handling Grief Waves At Inconvenient Moments

A bereaved mom just a month into this journey shared that she feels bad for not being able to handle grief better at work.

She wants to be professional, do her job well and shield unsuspecting coworkers and clients from her tears.

Her question was (slightly expanded):

Does anyone have practical suggestions for how to handle the unpredictable, overwhelming, undeniable waves of grief that come out of nowhere and demand attention regardless of how convenient it might be at that moment?

Here’s my reply (also expanded):

Don’t waste what limited energy you have in these early, especially hard days on beating yourself up! There’s no such thing as a “standard for grieving” even though there may be someone here or there that tries to impose one. Don’t expect too much from yourself.

In the early days, it took every ounce of energy I had to just make it through each day I couldn’t waste any blaming myself for what I might have “gotten wrong”.

Try to find a quiet spot (if possible) or at least a focal point in the room or rooms you work in most often so you can rest your eyes and focus your breathing/thoughts when the inconvenient waves sweep over you.

Often just making a plan is all a heart needs to regain control. As you shift your mental and physical focus, your body will tend to follow.

The little 5-4-3-2-1 centering exercise for anxiety works for nearly any strong emotion.

I wore a necklace or carried a memento in my pocket every day for years. I still do that when I know I’m going into a stressful place. I could reach in (or up), take hold of that physical object and it helped me breathe, slow my heart rate and lasso my emotional response.

Finally, if a tear falls, let it.

Don’t apologize or make it bigger (you can briefly mention you’ve lost a child-if appropriate and the person doesn’t know), wipe it off (or not) and go on.

I’ve found most people follow my lead.

I am so very sorry you even have to figure this out.

It’s not something any parent should have to do.

However you manage is really OK.

I promise. ❤

***If YOU have hints, tips, wisdom or encouragement for other bereaved parents who work AND grieve, please comment! It is such a blessing to hear that another heart has fought this particular battle and is reaching out. ***