You’ve just received the news that is every parents worst nightmare. The news that was never supposed to visit your doorstep. You have lost your child, your flesh and blood. You would die 1,000 times for this child, yet, that has no bearing in this new reality.
You wish God would take you as well and end this nightmare.
The urge to go be with your child is a stronger force than anything you’ve ever felt before. You need to go to him but you can’t.
The pain in your body is unbearable, like no pain you have experienced before. It’s unique and awful and you can’t make it stop.
You reach out to grasp the child that is no longer there because the need to touch and hold them is indescribable.
Everything seems surreal like this cannot possibly be your life, your child.
Your body is shaking and you can’t breathe. All day long you fight to breathe. Every little noise around you sounds like a freight train going through the room.
You know people are around you but you can’t remember who they are or what is being said. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep.
“Please someone, just make this stop, make it not be true.”
I know, my friend, because just 6 short months ago I was where you are now. Regardless of how or why your child has been taken, it is wrong, it is too soon and now you are left to figure out how to go on living in their absence. How will you ever be able to live without your child? I am still trying to figure this out, but I hope I can offer some advice and hope as someone who is walking through it. First thing is to understand you have to do this one moment at a time, starting now. Don’t look ahead a month or a year or even to tomorrow. It’s all too much. Concentrate on this minute, this 30 minutes or this hour only. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
Try and believe these few truths and you will get through this hell to make it to tomorrow and the next day, and the next day after that. It will be the worst pain you will ever have to endure, but I’m told it will not grip like this forever. If I have gotten this far, you can too. I hope these truths, as I see them, will help you in some small way;
- God is not going to take you. It’s not your time. The practical truth is, as much as we may want to, no one really dies of grief. This grief, however, truly does make you feel like you are going to die. But you won’t, so hang on and get ready to live. There are family and friends who love you and need you. You are valued. You have work left to do. Breathe….surrender whatever you are able to. At least contemplate what that means in your situation.
- The agonizing pain in your body will eventually cease and be replaced with something more tolerable. Your physiological response to this is insane. You are in a maximum “fight or flight” response. The problem is, you can’t “fight”- the outcome is irreversible, and you can’t “flight”, so your body is just cranking out adrenaline and cortisol that has nowhere to go. So you shake and you can’t sleep and you feel sick when you put food in your mouth. This is where letting the grief come will help. Cry and cry some more. It’s expected and necessary. It will give you some temporary relief. Get out to walk or run if you are physically able. The movement and change of environment will help so much. Of course, sleep when you can. Fatigue heightens every emotion and makes coping so much harder- that is the last thing you need now. Do NOT feel badly or beat yourself up if you need prescription help for this. The risks of chronic sleep deprivation far outweigh the risks of taking a temporary sleep aid.
- You will smile, even laugh soon enough and it will be genuine, not robotic politeness like it is now. You probably have a lot of people coming and going and you are appreciative and need to be polite, so you smile. You don’t feel like it, but you do. I know it seems like we will never be able to genuinely smile from the inside again, but we will. I do sometimes now. Whether it’s my other children, a spouse or friends, the sight of them, the thought of them, the sound of their voice will make you smile and it will be genuine and welcomed. One of the beautiful and amazing things about the human spirit is that during the most horrific of circumstances, we can still look upon the faces of those we love and that powerful and transcendent emotion rises above all else. What a blessing to feel something other than pain! Make sure you are surrounded by people you love.
- There are simple and practical things you can do to get from this moment, to the next hour, to evening and to the next day. Right now you don’t have to do anything other than exist and cope as best you can with what is in front of you. There is no other time in life where “the world can wait” is more appropriate. I found that distractions from conversations in the room, reading small, easily digestible and relevant scriptures or books (that you can find on my scriptures and references page) and getting out of the house for frequent walks helped me tremendously. People will bring food. Eat it. Even when you can hardly palate it, please eat the nutritious food in particular. Your body is burning through nutrients like a brush fire right now. Eat. The condensed version; talk, cry, read, cry, walk, cry, eat, cry. Repeat. Sleep when and if you can.
- Seek council from trusted friends and family for difficult decisions. There may by some awful decisions you have to make. Traumatic decisions. I won’t list them because you likely already know what they are. They are the thing of nightmares, except it’s not. I had 3 heart breaking, impossible decisions that just about ruined me and my family had not arrived yet. Thankfully, I had amazing friends, church family and my best friend from home on the phone to guide me and focus my shocked and grieving mind. I didn’t know much, but I knew she loved me a lot, she would always say what was in my best interest and above all else, I trusted her for wise council on decisions I could never reverse and would have to live with for the rest of my life. Think of who those people are in your life. Get them with you if possible. Those decisions alone will drain what life and energy you have in you. Another reason to have loved ones close by- as in IN the house with you. You will need them for support and counsel. Don’t be shy. Tell someone who you need. When my uncles heard the news, they jumped in the car and just started driving the 17 hour journey to get to me. They went to a relatives house 2 hours from here to wait “until I needed them”. When I heard this, I had someone call and say “Now, she needs you now.”, and they came. Thank GOD. People will want to do whatever they can for you. Let them.
- Decide NOW that you and your family are going to make it through this loss. Ask “Why?” and “Why me?” and “Why my child?” all you want, but declaring “We are going to make it through this.” now, will help define the course of this unwanted journey you are on. Declare your victory now. It is going to be the hardest thing you will ever walk out, but if you waver in your intentions, you may drown in this tragedy. Don’t let that happen. Doing so does NOT hurt your child, disrespect his/her memory or deny what you are going through, it just places you in a frame of mind to survive something that many can’t. One life is lost, a bigger tragedy would be to have another lost because of it. Living on the outside, but feeling dead on the inside is not life. My friend, I am with you in this battle still. I am only 6 months into this, so I am fighting this right along with you and it is so, so hard. Many days I can’t walk my talk, but I know if I had not entered this with a survivors attitude, I may be in a much darker, unreachable place right now. Say with confidence, “I will get through this.” and you will.
- Always remember-You are not alone, ever. Thankfully, usually, people have friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances who truly want to help. I have a friend who has told me over and over- “you are not alone-ever. We will do this together.” And we have, and I am here because of friends like her. There are churches full of people who love people and pastors whose job it is to step in to help. There are grief groups and Facebook groups and blogs like this to help you know you are not alone. I honestly couldn’t imagine anyone feeling like this, until I read about someone who was, and it changed something for me. I had company. It gave me hope that if someone could make it 6 months into a tragedy, that I could too. If someone else could process complicated grief enough to write about it, then so could I. So can you, and you don’t have to do it alone.
- Don’t isolate. Your tendency will be to resist reaching out to people, to hibernate and stay “safe” in the womb you may be creating in your home or a friends home. That is healthy and necessary for a while, I understand. But there comes a time….People are people and they will stop reaching out after a while. They may not understand there is no time limit on grief and that even after 6 month, you still find it hard to just be around “normal” people. I sure do! But if you don’t respond, they will go away and some day you will wish they hadn’t. As soon as you feel up to it, try to see people, even if it’s just for a 30 minute cup of coffee in your own kitchen. Answer the phone. Return the text. People are your lifeline. Embrace them and let them embrace you in whatever small way they are trying.
- A good day doesn’t mean it’s over and a bad day doesn’t mean you have taken a step backwards. Grief can be all over the board. It does not follow a straight line, a predicted path or set of steps like you may have been taught. Surrender to the bad days and let them happen. Rejoice in the better ones knowing there will be more. When I started writing this post, I was having a good week. I felt all empowered to offer advice because I had a few good days. As I finished it today, I felt like a total hypocrite who has no business giving advice, because I spent most of the day home in bed, holding my sons stuffed dog and crying. I couldn’t do life today, so I didn’t. Tomorrow will likely be better and I hope it will for you too. Close your eyes and declare your victory now.