Episode 10: As a Grieving Mother
If you are like I was, I kept wondering if this all my life was now. Was my life sadness, and depression, and deep pain and grief like I’ve never known before. How was I supposed to be the mother to my other children, who I love so much, yet I’m snapping at them, and struggling with being their mother? I didn’t love Aria anymore than my other children, so how come her dying is taking over and robbing me of being the mother I want to be?
I couldn’t believe I was only 23, and I felt like I aged 50 years overnight. I was far too young to know this pain, and experience this kind of trial. I had many years left in my life to live, and was it going to be one rotten miserable life? I knew I didn’t want that. I knew I wanted to find a way to live with this.
In those days, I pondered a lot. There are so many heavy and horrible things that happen to us all. We live in a world of struggle and pain. Yet there are many who suffer horrible experiences, many people in this world who have had a child die, and yet they are living. They have joy in their lives. So is it possible for me too? Is it possible that the rest of my life won’t be a depressing sad cave? I so badly wanted to learn how to live with this, because I have many years of life(never certain, but I will plan on it) and I want my many years to have some happiness and joy along with my grief
I need to stay strong. (for my kids, for my husband, for my family)
Why do you need to stay strong? What does that mean to you? Does staying strong mean not allowing yourself to grieve? Does staying strong mean you put on a mask and pretend you are okay when you are not?
Do you want to live like this? Do you want to live being a shell version of yourself?
Your kids, your family, your friends, whoever is in your life. They DO need you. They DO want you in their lives. And by focusing on your kids and the other people in your life and ignoring your own grief, you are doing a disservice to them. Because your kids are not getting you. They are getting a shell of you. They are getting a mother who is pouring from a very depleted and empty cup. I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty for what is. I want you to see, that the best way you can serve your family is not to just push through and be strong. But to notice and care for your grief as well. To take time for yourself and take care of yourself.
This was my biggest motivator for going to therapy and really focusing on allowing my grief to come and go as it needs. I wanted to be able to be my children's mom again. I didn't feel able to. I didn't feel like i could watch my kids on my own. I needed Justin to check on them constantly. When I was caring for them on my own I was terrified.
When we be strong and ignore our grief, we are not allowing ourselves to process and support our pain. We pretend we are okay when we are not. We put on the mask, when we could be grieving, which is normal. Grief is normal. Grief is a normal response to loss,and the sooner we allow ourselves to grieve and face it, the sooner we can get to standing on two feet again and being the mother we want to be again.
I’m not saying this is a race. I’m not trying to rush and force you through quick as you can so you can get back to normal. There is no normal, you will have to come into your new normal.
But what I’m saying is, that by kicking the can down the road, and being strong instead of facing our grief, you are prolonging the time of heavy and deep grief that takes away from joy and you living the life you are meant to live here still. You are here for a reason. If you are like I was, I kept wondering if this all my life was now. Was my life sadness, and depression, and deep pain and grief like I’ve never known before. How was I supposed to be the mother to my other children, who I love so much, yet I’m snapping at them, and struggling with being their mother? I didn’t love Aria anymore than my other children, so how come her dying is taking over and robbing me of being the mother I want to be?
As mothers, we put ourselves last so many times. In our grief, we might try to shove it down, and pretend we are okay. So many don’t show their husbands their pain, or anyone else. They cry in the car, in the shower, alone. Which- when the people around you are not supportive or tell you to move on, or you really need to pull yourself together already, no wonder you try to hide it.
I want to remind you, there is nothing wrong with you. Your heart is torn in two, there is a jagged hole there, and grieving is the way we have been given to process, and support our bodies through such a difficult time.
Through all of this, I want to remind you, you are not broken for life. You are not wrecked. I know grieving is hard and difficult, and it can be hard to see why you should care about yourself when your child is dead. It can be hard to have the motivation to try. I am sending you the biggest hug, and telling you. You matter. Please find ways, even if they are small ways, to care for yourself, because by caring for yourself, you can slowly begin to put your life back together, scars, grief, and all so you can be present for what the rest of your life has to offer.
I often think of this time as a selfish time. Even if you are someone who wants and loves to help others, this is a time for you to receive and take help for yourself.
You are forever changed
We all know this one. There is no going back to the person we once were. Do you long for your old self? The person you were before your child died? So many times I would look at pictures of myself before Aria died and think, I had no idea what was coming for me. If only I could ever have that innocent and free laughter again.
There is a period of chaos, of being suspended between the life you once had, and the life that is possible for you. In this time, you feel like you lose yourself. You become a shell of who you were. You don’t know where you are going, or what your purpose in life is. It is possible to find yourself again. Not the person you were, because that person is gone. But the person you can become is someone living with grief and joy. The person you can become is someone that lives fully, and carries their child in their heart and their life fully as well.
There is pressure from some, and huge misunderstanding,that if you are sad you are stuck. Or if you talk about your child you are in need of professional help because you are not moving on. I want to say that by embracing your new self, this does not mean leaving your child behind. Your child is every bit part of your life and your experience. We don’t just delete them and move on, pretending it never happened or they never existed So taking steps to find who you are, is not moving on from your child, but fully embracing them as part of your life, and that grief is part of who you are now, woven into the fabric of your being.
The Importance of Community
Having people around you who support you and listen is incredibly helpful in how you face your grief. Losing Aria made me feel incredibly fragile emotionally. I was drained physically, mentally,and emotionally. My tank was beyond empty. I Had no energy to try to explain to others what it was like, if they didn’t have the heart and compassion to sit and listen. I want to give you that freedom in your life as well. Don’t waste your energy fighting someone who doesn’t understand, or trying to explain to someone who is not leading with compassion. Let them go for now. Lean into the people who are listening, supporting, and there for you.
Find community online or in person. There is nothing like talking with someone who understands in person.
In person option could be support groups:
-Through hospitals or churches
-SUDC Foundation Retreat
Online options- we are lucky to live in a time where if going to in person events isn’t possible or it feels overwhelming we have the ability to connect and meet others online.
-Finding people on Instagram
The doors to The Grieving Moms Haven are currently open. This is a place to take off the mask, and rest your weary heart. A place where you can be seen and see others who are walking the same path as you. As a founding member of The Grieving Mom's Haven, you get to help shape the community and what is offered in a way that you need the most. There is nothing that can take away the pain of child loss, but there are ways to find support, community, and explore our grief as a normal response to loss. Go get your spot as a founding member, because these are extremely limited and won't last long! Go to HERE to join!