It's hard to explain the whirlwind of emotions you experience when you've lost a child. Everyone grieves differently... but one of the most important things to remember is NOT to expect other people in your life to deal with it the same way you do- or to expect too much of yourself. There is no comparing, no standard process, no magic formula to grieving. It is important to remember this - otherwise family relationships and marriages are often found in jeopardy when the expectations placed on one another are too high. Here's a little insight into our own experiences within this topic.. And remember- we are not experts, BUT we are mothers who have traversed this path and know what worked for us.. Everyone is different!
I remembered hearing that men and women grieve differently. That was something that stuck in the back of my mind from long ago. I never knew that I'd find it out for myself at such a early stage in my life. When Lila died, I remember thinking how important it was going to be to make an extra effort to stay close to my husband. I didn't want to lose my child and my marriage. So we did our very best not to expect anything from each other, but to give as much as we could. The result was a good one- each of us giving equaled neither of us feeling shorted. In the end we helped one another nurse the wound in a way that was good for both of us. I didn't push him to shed more tears and he didn't push me to stop shedding tears. We noticed right away the gender specific traits are prominent in grief. Although we both missed her desperately, we didn't express it in the same way.
We started praying together, out loud, in our bed- every night before falling asleep. It was a good time to be honest with each other, ourselves and God. This is something we still do, after all this time. It made the lines of communication clearer and helped to draw us closer.
It has been a little over two years now since she passed away, and I know without a doubt, our marriage is stronger than ever. We've been through one of the biggest trials a couple can face, if we survived that, I'm praying we can survive whatever life still has to come.
As for other family members, your parents, your siblings, your other children- the same thing applies- you can't force them to feel exactly the way you feel. Trying to make people feel a certain way will only end in disaster. Love each other, and remember that you're lucky to have those people in your life! You never know how much time each of us has left.
After Ethan died, I remember finding it very hard to articulate how I felt. The feelings I were saturated in seemed so foreign to me at the time, and truthfully, I don't think my mind nor my body knew how to handle it all. Everything that had happened, happened so quickly, and it just didn't make sense to me; how my healthy child who I held and cared for, that I loved so truly and deeply, could be gone from me in an instant.
So many hopes and dreams,...everything, just slipped away from me that night that Ethan died. I had to put a lot of focus on a promise I made to Ethan; that I would never allow the pain and hurt of losing him overshadow all the good and joy he has brought into my life.
It was a daily struggle, but with time, I was able to make true to that promise.
But what did I learn along the way?
That you have to have some fight in you at a time when you feel like you've got nothing left in you. You have to dig deep and pull strength from places you didn't even know existed within yourself. And, most importantly, you have to decide that you want to learn to live and grow in a world again in which your child no longer exists. This is something that is easier said than done, but with perseverance, it IS achievable.
It is also important to remember to be patient with yourself. You may witness your spouse or family member seeming to be further along in their healing, and you're left asking yourself what is it that you're doing wrong --- but the truth is, as Carrie mentioned, there is no set path or set time for grieving. Each person will handle things differently, and forging forward with that understanding is truly important. My husband and I were brought so much closer by Ethan's passing. We cried together, we listened to each other, and we were in it together. My family was also very supportive and knew when to just listen... I remain so very grateful for all that they did for me.
My husband and I got matching tattoos in the few days following Ethan's passing. A single word on our wrists; a place where at a glace we would be reminded.
...to be patient with ourselves in our grieving
...to be patient with the world and others around us who may not understand all that we're going through
...and most importantly, to be patient to see our little Ethan again one day.