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PROCESSING YOUR GRIEF

PROCESSING YOUR GRIEF

The loss of a child in any circumstance is a crushing blow to parents, and perhaps this is even more pronounced when that death was unexpected and unnatural, being brought about through violence.

In the first days and weeks after your loss, the shock at your loss and the resultant despair you feel may be so intense that it is virtually impossible to function.

But while everyone deals with grief in their own way, and at their own pace, there will come a time when you are ready to begin processing that grief.

This is normal, and a healthy bereavement response as beginning to make sense of your loss by truly acknowledging and accepting it will allow you to begin your healing journey and slowly rebuild your life.

Once I was out of the initial shock and despair of my grief, maybe around a month or so, I started to look for answers to my questions about these intense, painful feelings. I wanted to know what to expect, what will happen during the different stages of grief, when they were likely to occur, and what I should do in response.

For some reason, I thought that the bookstore would hold all my answers. However, at that time I did not find as many books available to me as I seem to find now. There were some dealing with the loss of a spouse due to cancer or other long-term illnesses but I failed to find anything for bereaved parents.

Perhaps this is because the death of a child is still largely a taboo subject, because it is against the natural order of things, or ‘vilomah’ in Sanskrit, and it is such an uncomfortable, unimaginable, horrible subject that people will actively avoid it.

I understand this. I would have reacted the same way before my babies died. Now, of course, I know differently.

Because of this I eventually decided to write a book myself. I wanted to help other parents who have gone through similar experiences to have a resource available to help them. I also wanted this subject to become more ‘normal’ to talk about — for others to realise that such books are helpful rather than painfully reminding us of our loss. We never forget, I assure you. And for others to realise that most parents actually do want to talk about the child they lost: what they were like, what were their hopes and dreams.

Remembering our loved ones is an important part of processing grief. It will, of course, be incredibly painful at first but at the same time it helps keep them alive in our thoughts and of those whose lives were touched by them.

Related to this is the idea of sharing our bereavement story, talking about our loss and how it came about. Many people find this to be cathartic, helping them get things off their chest that would otherwise remain pent-up, and by so doing aiding the processing of their grief.

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Writing as Therapy

Other people will alternatively, or in combination with talking, benefit from writing down their thoughts and feelings. The process of writing my book, Precious Scars, was a big part of processing my own grief. Whenever I would write, I would have to face different aspects of my life, it gave me valuable insights into myself and a deeper understanding.

I was initially encouraged to write by my therapist, who suggested that I write letters to my babies. I won’t sugarcoat the experience. It was very difficult. It forced me more than anything to face my grief, to ‘talk’ to my twins and tell them about the immense guilt I felt, my grief, and the relentless and soul-sucking despair in my heart. I would sit in front of a blank piece of paper splattered with tears, looking into the distance totally lost in my thoughts and grief. In the end, when the words did start to come, I turned to the computer so that I could actually write something down, any paper before me being too damp with my tears to use.

It did get easier with time and at some stage became my release, my safe space. I would sit in my office or in the kitchen, where no one would disturb me, cry, and then write.

This later became my book, Precious Scars. The words did not come easy and there were times when I would not look at it for weeks because, emotionally, I needed a break, but it was a pivotal part of my own healing journey and one that I hope, by sharing my experiences, will provide support to other parents.

I also found other creative ways of processing my grief, returning to one of my passions: art. I started to make little wire flowers and then painting the petals with nail polish. From there I moved to mosaics, making beads and stained glass. I explored different mediums. Now I am playing with resin and dried flowers. But what I really enjoyed the most is making things using broken pieces, unused things I find lying around on my walks. I have a huge collection and I wait for inspiration to hit to make something with them. You can learn more in the article Creativity As Part Of The Healing Process.

Support Networks

There are many other ways of processing your grief other than those already mentioned. Having a support network is important. From the beginning I had the support of my then boyfriend and now husband. Iiro, as well as my family and friends.

You may also benefit from joining a support group if one is available where you live. It does help to talk to others who have also suffered bereavement, who knows what it’s like and how you are feeling.

You may also find it useful to seek professional guidance though a therapist. I saw a therapist for around a year, after which time I slowly went less and less as I improved. Apart from writing to my babies, he also recommended I try meditation and encouraged me to return to yoga practice as well as push me to go on hikes.

Meditation and other mindfulness practices can be useful when processing grief as it allows us to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment, helping bring a sense of peace to body and mind. Such practices can be done by yourself, in the company of a trusted friend, or guided by a professional.

We all deserve to be kinder to ourselves. It’s difficult as we’re all very good at being self-critical and hard upon ourselves but self-compassion is important. We show it to others so why not to ourselves? When processing our grief, we can deal with our sense of guilt and hopefully work towards forgiving ourselves.

Finally, please try to remember that processing grief takes time. We need to be patient. There’s no way to rush the process and nor should we try as that will negatively impact the healing journey, potentially leading to huge steps backward down the line. Don’t deny what you feel or try to cover or ignore it as it will only come back stronger at a later date.

Grief is a part of love, and love never fades. But by processing our grief, however difficult it may seem, we can lessen those feelings of pain over time while never forgetting those we have lost.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Understand that grief is a natural response to the loss of a child. Acknowledge and accept the intensity of your feelings, recognising that it is a crucial step in the healing process.
  • Sharing your bereavement story with others can be a cathartic way to express your emotions and aid in the processing of grief.
  • Explore creative outlets as a means of processing grief.
  • Recognise the importance of a support network in providing comfort and encouragement during the healing process.
  • Practice self-compassion and be patient with yourself. Processing grief takes time, and varies from person to person.


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