Stillbirth & Miscarriage Loss: A Personal Account

Only a parent who has experienced the loss of a child through stillbirth or miscarriage can understand the pain of losing someone they never got to meet.

Stillbirth

For most grievers, happy memories can be painful or even bittersweet at times…but memories are something this type of grieving parent will never get a chance to have.

This is a loss that is not usually validated and is often misunderstood. People may think, or even say, “why don’t you just try to get pregnant again?”, as if one child can easily be switched out and replaced by another.

After this type of loss, some will never get the chance to become a parent. So then what? What to do with the emptiness, the void, the longing and yearning of an instinct that can never be answered?

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Unconditional Love, Unconditional Grief

“It would seem that there are no bad marriages in a grief group.” That’s what one griever said to me after attending her first bereavement group following the loss of her spouse.  “I know I didn’t talk much, but I was having a hard time relating to what everyone was saying. I miss my husband, and I am feeling very lost without him. But listening to everyone else’s grief made me feel like the only one who didn’t have a picture-perfect marriage”.Grief

I asked her to stick with the group, to give it another try. First impressions are important, but it could have been the group was feeling particularly sad that day and choosing to highlight the good times they shared with their spouse.

This widow did come back and soon became very comfortable with the group. But her words stuck with me throughout the years and I couldn’t help but notice what she had pointed out- the tendency in grief to put our lost loved ones and our relationships on a pedestal.

So why do we do this, and could this “best of” version make the grief more pronounced?

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Grief Story: The Importance of Sharing Your Loss

Throughout our lives, we love to tell stories. Telling our children about the day they were born, or how their Mommy and Daddy met. We love to tell funny stories, old stories, and sad stories… but the one that may be most important to share: your grief story.  Grief Story

You may not have ever called it that, but a grief story is something every griever has and it’s one of the most important parts of the bereavement process.

I find for most the grief story follows a familiar pattern:

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Finding Purpose After Loss

Finding PurposeFinding purpose…what a very big and very grand idea, and one that we may not spend a lot of time exploring prior to loss. Perhaps because when life is “good” our purpose is pretty clear. While it may not be glamorous, or something worthy of history remembering our name, most people are finding purpose in their day-to-day lives, even if they’re not looking for it. Going to work, raising a family, finding involvement within church and community, even a hobby or past time can plan our days and fill our lives and give us direction, along with the “why” we’re getting up and out of bed each day.

When writing about loss, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of how different grievers can be. Different backgrounds, different supports, different styles of coping. What’s also very different is how far along in their grieving someone may be, and how ready they are to accept help and ideas as they’re offered. In the beginning, with the shock and numbness of loss it can be hard to see beyond the thick fog of grief and immediate pain.

This writing is for those who may be a little further along. The timeline doesn’t matter so much as the feeling. And when a griever gets there, they’ll know it. While always sad in some way, always missing their loved one and always grieving, there does come a time for most when they feel ready for the next step.

The problem is knowing what that next step is.

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Post Loss Regret: the “Mistakes” We Make After Loss

We always talk about the regret a griever may have leading up to their loss – did I do enough, did I love enough, could I or should I have done more?

Regret

But plenty of grievers struggle just as much with the decisions they make after their loss. And let’s face it, without their loved one there to help with these choices, and as a person already facing the mental deficits (inability to concentrate or focus) that grief brings – “mistakes” are going to happen.

Some big, some small.

The good news is there are answers in these “mistakes”. And you’ll notice that I’ll continually put the word mistakes in quotes as I believe the things we regret and wish we could change will tell us more about what we are searching for and what we really need than we may realize. At a time when we’re looking for answers of what do to, maybe it’s our “mistakes” that will hold the answers.

But first, some of the things we may regret after loss:

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Avoiding Grief: Why It Doesn’t Work

No one wants to be sad. In fact, we spend a good part of our life in the general pursuit of happiness, doing anything we can to avoid sadness, heartache, discomfort and pain. That is, until someone we love dies. And suddenly, not only does happiness feel so far out of reach, we may find ourselves actively (if not always consciously) avoiding grief.

Avoiding Grief

The thing is, it’s not just about losing someone we love. This was someone we counted on. This was the one who helped us make decisions, or who supported us no matter what we did. This was someone who knew us like no one else, and who loved us anyway. Someone who was such a part of our daily life, that when their life ended, our life feels like it ended too.

So who would want to think about that? With so much lost and so much sadness, isn’t avoiding grief, or at least trying desperately to push down or push away the overwhelming emotions, the only thing that would make sense?

Of course there is the other end of the spectrum – those people who feel a prisoner to the grieving thoughts. Who would welcome some avoidance, or even just a short respite from the grief, if only they knew how.

Somewhere between avoidance and floundering there could be a place that allows a griever to sit with their grief without being totally and completely swept away by it.

But before we get to that, let’s look at some of the ways people may be avoiding grief and why it doesn’t work:

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Feeling Lonely & Isolated in Grief

It’s not uncommon to feel isolated in grief. Does the grief push people away, or is the griever making a “choice” to remove themselves from friends, family, or even society in general? Like most things, the answer is probably a little of both, or something right in the middle. But why does this happen? Why would people leave us to suffer alone, or why would we prefer to go into seclusion after loss?

Isolated

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Suicide & Overdose: 5 Things only Survivors Understand

Every loss is different, and few people understand this better than the survivors of suicide and overdose. How a griever copes can often depend on who they lost, how old their loved one was when they died and how it happened. And for survivors, the “how it happened” can become as consuming as the loss itself.

Suicide & Overdose

Losing a loved one to suicide and overdose brings with it challenges that other grievers may not have to face, and for some, support can be especially hard to find. Recognizing and getting validation for these obstacles can be an important part of a survivor’s healing.

Here are 5 things that only a survivor of suicide or overdose may be able to understand:

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Coping with Loss: When Planning to Be Sad Helps

Coping with Loss
The challenges of living and coping with loss can seem insurmountable on a day-to-day basis. Trying to get through life while being assaulted by a never-ending stream of unexpected triggers is something every griever can relate to.

Still, there’s no doubt that some days and some dates are more foreboding than others. Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and special occasions…not to mention the dreaded anniversary of the loss itself. When coping with loss, what is the best way to handle the days that bring with them the possibility of additional hardship?

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Loss of a Spouse: 5 Things Only a Widow/er Understands

Everything changes after the loss of a spouse or partner. For many, this was the person we spent most of our time with. This is who we made our plans with…the one who shared our worries. Every part of our past, present, and future revolved around this person, and to be without them is  harder, sadder, and lonelier than we ever could have guessed.

Loss of a Spouse

And here’s the thing…not only is it harder than we could have thought; the people we spend time don’t always seem to recognize the depth and duration of this loss.  This can be felt any time someone tries to cheer us up, smooth it over, or make it better. Our loved ones are well intentioned, there’s no doubt, but here is what most grievers who have lost a spouse would want those around them to understand:

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