I said in my last post that I would begin to post somethings that you could do to try and bring some relief to the pain of your grief. The things that I will be talking about in my next few posts brought me some moments of relief. I don't personally believe that there is anything that takes away the pain experienced when your child dies, but I do feel that you can get brief respites that become longer in duration over time, if you visit these ideas on a regular basis. The first thing I want to talk about is movement.
Science has shown that trauma (and the death of a child is one of the most traumatic events a parent will ever face) causes the body to increase the production of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the hormone that is produced in the body at high levels during stress and traumatic events. It is produced to engage our muscles for the fight or flight response to deal with the traumatic event. If the body is unable to calm itself, cortisol can build up in the muscles and cause us to feel sluggish and tired. Many parents report the feeling of being tired and sluggish all the time after the death of their child. I know that I did.
I used to run frequently prior to Kaitlyn's passing, and I took it up again after her death. The physical movement helps to decrease the cortisol levels in your body while increasing the production of endorphins, which tend to elevate your mood and are natural pain killers produced in your brain.
You do not have to be a runner, any kind of aerobic exercise will do. Just get moving. There is even a fairly new practice called grief yoga that many people are reporting is helpful for dealing with the pain associated with grieving.
I know that the last thing you feel like doing is exercise after the death of your child, but it does provide some relief. Please don't think that going out and running a mile or so is going to make all your pain go away, it will not. You may get brief short periods of release from the pain and see a slight increase in your energy level over time. Letting the cortisol levels continue to build up in your body can cause other physical health problems over time.
Another thing I did was to listen to music while I ran. This can be hard at first and music can trigger powerful emotions especially if a song comes on that reminds you of your child. It may trigger a crying response or a fond memory, but both are healing. Crying is another way of releasing those endorphins and ridding your body of stress hormones. I think that is why after a good cry you tend to feel a little bit better. My runs often turned into crying times as well as times when I was able to feel closest to my daughter. So start slow and just try to get moving and let the tears flow.
In closing I wanted to share with you something that happened on one of my runs after Kaitlyn died. I was running and listening to music and the song Halo came on and I got chills all over my body, and began running faster and I had a burst of energy where I felt I could run forever without getting tired. I felt like it must be Kaitlyn's presence with me on my run. In the future I will post more about these types of experiences. I have included a link to my favorite version of the song (not the Beyoncé's version). It still gives me chills to listen to it. Please give it a listen.