by Clara Hinton
Grief is a tricky thing. It can wreak havoc on your emotions, especially in the first year following the death of a child. A parent can think that progress in healing is finally being made, and then something as unexpected as a song comes on the radio, and the words trigger feelings of grief as strong as if the loss took place yesterday.
After all of the "firsts" are in the past, the path to healing seems a bit more even for a while. Setbacks don't come nearly as often as in the first year, and rarely are the grief feelings as raw and intense as during the first months following the death of a child.
Most parents work their way through the sad emotions of loss to a place where they can finally recall fond memories of times spent with their child. They can talk about their child without crying, and there is an overall feeling of peace rather than the gnawing feeling of never being at rest.
Grief can be quite deceitful, though, and show up many years after a loss leaving one feeling like healing never took place. Rather than be alarmed if grief returns, remind yourself often that grief's visit is only a momentary appearance.
Just as we go through seasons in our lives, grief will visit each of those seasons to let us know that the loss of a child has left its mark on the heart. An especially sensitive time is when a parent enters what we so often call the "empty nest." Grief can return as a bold reminder of what was so cruelly and unfairly taken away. A parent's emotions can become very disturbed during this sad reminder of loss once again.
When grief returns, remind yourself often that this is a normal part of the overall healing process. The pain associated with child loss never totally goes away, so it is quite normal for certain times in our life to bring grief emotions to the forefront once again.
Remember that this return of grief will not last forever. Take good care of yourself physically. Eat well-balanced meals. Rest. Keep yourself well hydrated. Talk to your doctor if you feel like you might be entering a phase of depression. Depression is something that can be treated early, and is nothing to try to hide.
Lastly, find some support for this difficult time in your life. Even though your loss might have occurred 20 years ago, if you feel overwhelmed with sadness and grief, it is most important that you find someone who will listen and lend you support.
Remind yourself often that grief is something that cannot be ignored. Grief can be masked for a while, but eventually it makes its presence known. It is something that requires hard work and attention. A parent's grief is a natural reaction to an abnormal event. Grief is not an illness, but rather is a time of readjustment to a reality of living with loss.
Parents who lose a child do not stop grieving. The pain will vary in intensity at different times in a parent's life, but the process is life long. When grief returns, remember to be kind to yourself and allow yourself the time you need to once again work through your feelings.
Clara Hinton is a Certified Grief Facilitator, founder of The Silent Grief Website, and the author of four books, including Silent Grief. She is the author of a weekly newletter and has contributed to Christian Woman and Church and Family magazines. Clara speaks on college campuses on grief and is a keynote speaker at women's retreats. She has been interviewed on radio stations across the nation and appeared on various TV programs. Clara is a stay-at-home mother of eleven children and wife of 31 years.
Copyright © Clara Hinton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.