There is really no good way to describe the feelings that come over me on my “bad days”- a tight squeezing sensation right around my stomach just below my rib cage, a knot in my throat, constant burning just behind my eyes and a heaviness that comes over me, as if the Universe turned up the knob labeled “gravity”. My head feels cloudy and unclear and reminds me of those times I am driving on dark and rainy nights without my glasses. Everything is foggy and out of focus and all I can do is push my brain into overdrive to concentrate on the road and on getting home safely.
Feelings like these began even before our daughter was born. In the hospital waiting on prognoses, results, the next ultrasound, the next contraction, the next specialist to come and tell me my daughter’s percent chance of survival. It was hell even before I accepted the fact that we might truly lose her. After reading the definitions offered by books on child loss and assessing my own efforts to understand it, I found that grief cannot be pinned down by a single definition. Grief is personal, ever changing, unpredictable and so very very powerful. Something I did learn about grief after Ryann’s passing is that it is not enough. Grief encompasses our internal thoughts and feelings- the unspeakable things that haunt us on those bad days, the heaviness in our chests and the foggy and unfocused images that crowd our minds and even the sleepless nights when we stay awake wondering “what if?” – but grief alone is not the path to healing. In order to heal we must find a way to outwardly express our grief, we must mourn.
Mourning is what allows us to move toward healing and remembrance. Mourning can be as simple as allowing yourself to cry or as involved as starting a non profit in honor of your lost loved one. Creating artwork, journaling, telling their story, volunteering for an organization that is important to you, planting a tree, creating a tradition and bringing what was once unspeakable out of the shadows and into the light. No one person’s journey will be the same and that is the beauty of it; you have to allow yourself to be who you are, even if you feel you are not the same person you used to be. Finding a way to express our grief not only allows us to better understand how we have been changed by our experiences but can also eventually help us find a renewed meaning and purpose in our lives. It allows us to remember, to cherish and keep alive the memory and story of those who impacted our lives so profoundly.
Make sure to ask yourself on your next “bad day”: Have I truly been mourning the death of my child or have I restricted myself to grieving?
Peace, Be Well.