Losing a child is so deeply painful it is bound to leave scars. I compare it somewhat to having broken ribs, but many times more painful. About a year or so ago, I was out running and I tripped and fell on an uneven piece of concrete and broke two ribs. The pain is very intense and it even hurts to breathe. I went to the doctor and he X-rayed me to confirm the ribs were broken, but there was nothing else they could do for me other than give me medication for the pain. The medication they gave me for the pain made me sick to my stomach so I pretty much just had to find ways to survive the pain. It hurt even to take a breath. On the outside to look at me you would not know anything was wrong, but internally it hurt every time I moved the wrong way. It is much the same for a grieving parent. They try to put on a brave face for the rest of the world but every breath they take is painful.
Any recovery process is bound to leave scars. Most scars are visible on the skin as a reminder of the healing process you had to go through to get better. I'm sure even though my broken ribs are healed now, the mending of the bones left an internal scar of sorts on the bones so that a doctor could tell on close internal examination that I had at one time broken my ribs. So if physical recovery will leave a scar then recovering from child loss is also bound to leave and invisible scar. SCAR is the way that I came up for trying to navigate the grief journey of a parent who lost their child.
The S stands for SURVIVE. In the early days, weeks, and months after losing a child, you do whatever you can just to survive. Previously in the blog, I discussed somethings to try to bring you some moments of relief, but the pain is so intense at first that you can hardly breath. Just to try to take a deep breath is a challenge. Grief sucks you under like a massive wave from which it seems you will never escape. So you have to do whatever you can to survive for the next minute, and then the next hour, and then the next day. It is like trying to climb Mount Everest. It is the hardest climb you will ever make and you begin to doubt that you will be able to do it, but just start by taking the first step and then the second. You probably will have set backs and need to take time to rest along the way, but just don't give up it will get easier I promise.
The C stands for CHOICE. I believe that there will come a time on every parent's grief journey that they need to make a choice. Do I want to continue to feel this way the rest of my life, or do I want to try to find a way to feel better. In the survival mode stage, someone asking you this question would invoke feelings of anger, I know it did for me. How dare you ask me that question!! Of course I want to feel better but I will never be able to feel better because can't you see I just lost my child!! For me, I eventually came to a tipping point, and it revolved around this thought. If I were the one who died, and I had to look down on my daughter consumed with inconsolable grief, thinking her life was over it would just break my heart. If I would feel that way, don't you think it would be the same for her. This was the tipping point for me to try to start doing whatever I could to begin to heal. I think at first parents some how feel consciously or unconsciously that losing the pain means they will some how be forgetting or abandoning their child. at least that is what I think was holding me back. Actually the reverse is true. The more you heal the more that you are able to reconnect with them on a different level.
The A stands for ACT. To heal from this requires action on your part. For me I have a hard time with self worth because of my depression, so it was hard for me to try to change for myself (I'm still working on this in therapy), so I had to tell myself I was going to change to honor my daughter and include her in every step I took along the way. This is what she would have, and I believe still does want me to do. She became my inspiration for change. I continued in therapy when I wanted to quit, I stayed on my meds when I didn't feel they were helping me, I began to use guided meditation to try and reconnect with my daughter and to calm myself, I began to attend grief groups for parents who lost children, sought the support of others who had survived the loss of a child, I read everything I could about spirituality and child loss, I spent more time in prayer, I began to volunteer with the funeral ministry at my church. As you know from reading my story, Kaitlyn died playing tennis, so I even began to use her racket to play tennis as a way to reconnect with her. I still run 4 days a week and I wear shirts with her name on it. I also wear a rubber wristband with her name that her friends gave my wife and I which I never take off. I'm not saying you have to do all of these things, but find out what works for you. Just make sure you are doing things to honor your child instead of dwelling on the pain of losing your child. Easier said than done, I know, but essential if you want to began to feel better and strengthen the continued bond of love you still have with your child.
The R stands for REDISCOVER. You are never going to be the same person that you were after the loss of a child. No matter how much you desire to have your child back and your life the way it was, it is unfortunately not going to happen. The life as you once knew it has been shattered and you have been left with the painful task of trying to put the pieces back together. All the pieces will not be able to fit together quite the way that you hoped, but your life still can be quite beautiful. You can still connect with your child spiritually and the love you have for them still exists. Yes this process will leave scars, but wear your scars as a badge of honor for having the courage to carry on your child's legacy in how you choose to live the rest of your life.
Again please feel free to reach out to me by leaving a comment or by emailing me personally. If you have any questions for me, or any thing you would like me to write about. Also I would like to try to use this blog to develop a support group of parents who have lost a child so we can help each other heal.
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