Updated: Apr 20
Whether you have lost a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, friend, or other loved one, grief is one of the toughest journeys in life.
Twenty-seven hours spanning April 30, 2010 – May 1, 2010 was the most tumultuous ride from joy to utter despair that I have ever experienced. That was the time that I gave birth to and lost my son. He was diagnosed with a fatal form of dwarfism, thanatophoric dysplasia, at 20-weeks gestation. I knew he was going to die before or shortly after birth. That knowledge did not make it easier and I started grieving his loss from the time of his diagnosis up to the present day. I know that I will never get over or “accept” the loss of my son and that is ok. How can I accept something so devastating that I believe should never have happened? Parents are not supposed to outlive their children.
Through my grief, I was drawn to change my life in a drastic way. I had a PhD in Linguistics and was involved in research on American Sign Language. I loved doing research, but my grief (and I believe my son) urged me to want to help others through their difficulties in life. I started going to therapy, volunteered for Empty Cradle (a support group for miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss), and went back to school eventually earning an MA and PsyD in Psychology.
Despite being in school and reading any book about loss that I could get my hands on, about two years after the death of my son, I realized that I was stuck in my grief. The co-facilitator at an Empty Cradle meeting was talking about people feeling that they needed to cry every day and hold onto their pain in order to connect with their loved one. I realized that this is what I had been doing. I hadn’t been able to see any other way of connecting with my son. If I didn’t cry every day, didn’t that mean that I didn’t really love him anymore?
This was a turning point for me. I stopped crying every day and started to think of ways that I could connect to him in a more positive way, instead of being swallowed up by my grief. I bought an autograph picture frame used for graduations and I put a picture of him and me in the center. On the mat around the board, I wrote down all of the things that he had given me in his short life that I am grateful for. I then created a shelf space for that picture and other mementos that remind me of him, such as a quilt that a friend made him, a stuffed bear, and heart-shaped rocks that I collect every time I go to the beach. My grief has changed over time, but it is still there. It will always be there and I have learned to live with it and view it as a part of me. Grief has changed me for the better – I am more empathetic, caring, and perceptive of pain that others are suffering. Of course, I would give up these self-improvements in exchange for my son.
Whether you have lost a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, friend, or other loved one, grief is one of the toughest journeys in life. If your loss was recent, grief can be all consuming and that is normal. As time passes, it typically gets easier to put grief aside and accomplish tasks that need to be done. If you feel stuck in grief, it is possible to get unstuck. Changing your perspective and view of your loss, finding ways to remember and memorialize your loved one, sharing your memories with others, and attending a grief support group can help. Support groups helped me not feel so alone in my grief, connected me with others who were currently experiencing similar feelings, and validated the roller coaster of emotions that I was enduring.
Do I still get sad? Yes. Did I cry writing this blog? Yes (a lot) and that is ok. We grieve because we love and that is a beautiful thing. Author: Shannon Casey, Psychologist If you feel like you can benefit from group therapy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know which group you’d be interested in joining, or call (888) 588-8995 and a New Member Expert can help you sign up.