Ask any new parent and they will tell you the first nine months are a period of adjustment and change. Not only does the dynamic of your relationship with your spouse change, but your sleep patterns, your body and heart change too. What may have been important to you or brought you joy previously might pale in comparison to the love you have for your little one and each other. This might seem strange to hear, but the first nine months of grieving have been similar for me.
Whether or not your child is present in the home, they have certainly effected the dynamic of both your relationship and your family. You both are challenged to dig deep, press forward and rely upon each other in a way you have never done before. Your spouse should be the one person who truly knows your heart and the depth of your sorrow. Although you might grieve differently, the love you have for your child and each other is the same.
Here are a few things I have learned or found helpful:
1. Instead of asking the generic "how are you?" in which the knee jerk reaction is typically "fine or good" ask "how is your heart today?" that way someone can be clear you really want to hear how they are doing. I can't tell you how many times I was unclear if someone really wanted to hear how I was doing or if they were just being polite and asking the question out of habit.
2. Find a cause and get involved. The most meaningful time I have spent honoring our son, Asher, has been working with Teeny Tears making tiny diapers and blankets for other families suffering similar losses. In those first few months working on those items were my life line, they gave me purpose and were a good reason to wake up each day. Spending a majority of my time working on baby items forced me to confront my feelings early on as opposed to pushing them aside. I am certain this one act made my heart and mind stronger.
3. Talk about it. Whether to your spouse, your friend, your mother, or a counselor, it is important to get your feelings out and to have someone listen.
4. Write about it. When you are tired of talking, but still have lots to say. Grab a pen and paper and write down your feelings. Journaling has proved essential in my healing process.
5. Ignore the judgment of others. People are nosy, concerned, and oftentimes downright insensitive. Don't let other people's comments or thoughts become your own.
6. After a few months people will move on and might even forget. This is normal and does not mean your loss is any less significant to you than it was several months prior.
7. Find a support group. Whether it be a handful of close friends or people whom have suffered similar losses, find a group of people who can in some small way relate.
8. Reinvent yourself. After a tragic loss it is important to create new memories and find new interests. Your life has changed, so take advantage of this time to allow yourself room to grow.
9. Give yourself permission to feel. Feel angry, sad, hopeful, mad, optimistic and joyful. Don't allow yourself to get stuck in a rut. People would say, "when you are over this....." but I like the phrase "when I move through this...." Grief is a process and just when you think you are doing fine something might trigger pent up emotions.
10. Be grateful. We all have reasons for gratitude. If your blessings are not automatically recognized, search for reasons to be grateful.
11. Get away. The best advice I can give is to take a few days for yourself and get away. Our place was quickly beginning to feel like a funeral parlor with all the flowers, so when Cameron made the brilliant suggestion we go away for our a night it just felt right.
For those of you who have experienced grief, what has been helpful for you or what can you add to this list?
Additional posts you might find interesting:
Preparing for our baby.
Donation Day, the important work I do with Teeny Tears.
The most inspiring reaction to our loss.
A different kind of delivery day.
Thoughts on being a proud mama.
Dealing with the due date, a heaven sent getaway.
The kindest gift anyone could ever give us of our child.
Love and loss: the decision to hold a memorial service for Asher.
Lessons learned: my perspective three weeks later.
Thoughts a week later: Life goes on.
First moments of a family of three, meeting Asher.
Our baby nursery.
A family outing, turned maternity photo shoot.
First quilt, a labor of love.
Keeping active while being pregnant and continuing to do the things I love.
The big reveal to Cameron's family.
A happy occasion, our gender reveal party.
Observations of a pregnant woman.
And soon there will be three!!