Life After Loss

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite.” ~ Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince.

Some days I can’t believe I’m even here let alone in a place of healing and peace. The worst part of my journey on this earth is in the past and there are better days ahead, if I allow them to be better days. Should losing a child turn me bitter forever? Leave me angry for the rest of my life? I thought it would but it didn’t.

I found reasons to laugh at the simplest things, to see flowers bloom with a different set of eyes, and to understand the value of love.

I’ve read there are five stages you go through when it comes to grieving the loss of a child but the reality is there’s just one big God awful stage that goes on for years. Don’t get hooked on the idea of there being stages, life doesn’t work like that and neither does your heart. Thinking in stages just adds another avenue in your life to make you feel broken and worthless.

Not once did I think or feel I got through denial. Or anger. Or any of it; I just kept living, got out of bed, made something to eat. And slowly the most painful days went by until the shock wore off, the anger subsided, and I slowly got used to the idea of living the remainder of my life with a big hole in my heart.

If I were to break down the five stages of grief it would look like this:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Denial is the easiest. If you lost your child you lost your child. The denial part can last for minutes, hours, or decades; it depends on you and how much time you’re going to spend denying someone is gone when they’re not here anymore. You won’t change that with all the prayers and hopes in the world. Denial does you no good whatsoever.

Anger is the most dangerous stage, especially if your child died by someone else’s hand. You’re going to want revenge and the rage you direct outwards can seriously hurt you in the long run while providing you with almost nothing in return. And you’ll still cry all the time.

Bargaining comes with a wingman – Guilt. This is the endless “what ifs.” What if I had called her the night she hanged herself? What if I sent her to live with my brother?  What if I crossed the country speaking to young men about the role bystanders play and I did it BEFORE she was assaulted? Would one of those young men know what to do to help her? The ‘what ifs’ will bury you in guilt and accomplish nothing.

Depression is the worst stage by far. It will most likely paralyze you from moving forward and fool you into thinking it’ll last forever. Of course you’re depressed, don’t be hard on yourself for it. Give it all the time it needs and take small steps when you’re ready. You still have to live on this earth. Get up, shower, eat, let the dog out, go for a walk. You might find yourself laying in bed for months and one day it will be there. You have to make a decision to get whatever part of your life back you can.

When you’re depressed any addiction you may have had will get dangerous fast. Keep the booze in moderation if you drink. For the first time in decades I smoked weed, a much better choice than alcohol.

Acceptance. Who the hell can accept this? It took me almost seven years to find acceptance with my daughter’s death. I don’t know why it took that long or if that’s the ‘normal’ time it takes but it did and today I feel I can say I’m in a better place because of it. We’re all made differently so don’t take the acceptance stage as a mission or goal post you need to cross to live. You don’t. You do you and don’t think it means you’re okay with the loss you’ve experienced. Acceptance is about you deciding to move forward in your life, it’s not about finding acceptance with your child dying.

My acceptance came in a vision I experienced on psilocybin mushrooms. I took them during a healing retreat with a shaman guide in Costa Rica. I never thought I’d do something like that but I’m so glad I did. Personal choice no one has a right to judge you for. I did it once and it rewired my view of loss and grief.

The worst part of moving forward will be the days that should bring joy; birthdays, Christmas, holidays, and graduation. They’re all tainted with sadness and that’s okay. Some of my daughter’s friends from high school are married and have children of their own now.

I’ll never know the joy of being a grandpa and holding a grandchild. That’s hard to accept.

Wherever you are in your journey I wish you well. Take care of yourself. You still matter and you can still build a happy life.

“In time, in time they tell me, I’ll not feel so bad. I don’t want time to heal me. There’s a reason I’m like this. I want time to set me ugly and knotted with loss of you, marking me. I won’t smooth you away. I can’t say goodbye.”

~ China Miéville, The Scar

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”

~ Walter Anderson ~ China Miéville

Grief Resources

My Suggestions

  1. Don’t be alone in your grief. Reach out for help.
  2. Stay away from alcohol.
  3. Take it one day at a time.
  4. Eat healthy.
  5. Don’t make big life changing decisions while grieving.
  6. Cut negative people out.
  7. Have understanding. Some people don’t know what to say but they mean well.
  8. Let good people in.