Coping with Loss/2 funerals, 5 months apart...
We lost our daughter when she suffered a fatal Asthma Attack while at school, she was only 15... Then 5 months later my Mother passed away. I can remember sitting at my Mother's funeral, & the entire time thinking about my daughter, & how I never really got to say good bye, & how could God let this happen to us. I couldn't even properly mourn my Mother, because the Loss of our daughter seemed so much GREATER, & left me completely broken Hearted. Our youngest was 9 months old when we Lost Steph, & our son was 14yrs old. I stopped taking care of my Husband, & son, & the only reason why I got out of bed each day was because of my baby, she was all I could manage to care for.... I completely checked out of life. I carry so much regret, & feel like a terrible mother & wife not caring for my husband & son after my losses. Its been 5yrs & I'm finally able to leave the house & become more involved w/ my family & life. Asthma Awareness & Organ & Tissue Donations have become my outlet now. It seems like the more involved I become w/ my causes/organizations the better I feel & the healing process can continue. But, I still get very down & depressed during Birthdays, anniversary months, & holidays... It's like riding a roller coaster. Do you think my grieving will have a long term affect on my now 20yr old son, & 6yr old daughter..? I will never get over the loss of our daughter, & I will FOREVER have a hole in my heart.
Lydia (Steph's Mom)
Lydia, first off, I'm so very sorry to learn of your daughter's and mother's death, and for whatever it might be worth, am sending lots of supportive vibes your way.
The interesting thing about how we love and grieve is that ultimately it is very unique and intimate to each of us individually. So I will share with you all that I can think of here -- resources, ideas from my own experiences, but also I encourage you to keep exploring your path and find the answers that resonate for you personally. It's a bit of a paradox to find ourselves in this space where we need the most help we've ever needed in our lives, and yet, it turns out that we ourselves are our own best advocates for our own experience. That does not mean we are alone without tools and supports, but just that often when others share ideas and models for us, those things give us insights or perspectives, but not entirely ever answer our own individual experience. We ourselves end up creating our unique answers. If that makes any sense??
It has been very, very normal (whatever normal is anyway!) -- in my own personal experience *and* in my experiences with clients -- to feel what you called "riding a roller coaster." My first exposure to this idea was when I was working with Fred Rogers and Hedda Sharapan at Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and they introduced me to the idea that children will re-visit things they've experienced over and over again every time they touch on a new level of development. As I moved through my own grief experiences with the deaths of my sons -- and in witnessing experiences of other bereaved parents thru my practice -- I noticed that we *all* (regardless of age) would re-visit our experiences as we touched on new levels of development.
Our grief is felt and surfaces because we love the people who died. And when their birthdays or death days or holidays come -- all the spaces where we'd be finding new ways to express love for them -- it is natural that grief may re-surface as we try to figure out what to do with our time, love, money, and energy that would have been given to the physical being of the person who died. As we learn new skills and move thru our own personal development, we re-visit what it means to love and grieve and continue to express the relationship we have with the person who died -- even in their physical absences.
To "get over grief" (as is often touted in "closure" theories of grief) would be to get over love!?! I don't know many people who want to end the love they feel for the person who died. Re-define how they express that love, yes, of course because we have to adjust to them not physically being here... but to end the love entirely? I know I personally could not stop the love I feel for my two dead sons anymore than I could stop the love I feel for my living children and grandchildren!
It makes a lot of sense to me to hear how you've found re-connections back into the world at large via your work with Asthma Awareness and other outreach or charity efforts. Again, just for me personally, doing these kinds of outreach or doing kindness acts for others -- these are the spaces where I channel the love, time, money, and energy that would have been given to my two boys who died. That does not take away the love, time, money, and energy I still give to my living children directly. It is all a form of expressing my parenting, my continued love for *all* our family -- the living and the dead.
As to the question about grief affecting your living son and daughter, again, I think you and your family will find those answers that resonate with you personally. But I can share with you that when our sons died, our living children had their own experience of grief and continue to find ways to express the fact that they not only having living siblings, but also to remember *all* their siblings. Has grief affected them? Yes. How could it not? They are caring, loving beings. They have their own sense of love within our family and want to express that. Does that expression look the same now as when they were teenagers? No. Their expressions have evolved as they have as individuals -- and as they've revisited grief, love, definitions of family as they have developed as human beings. They are both old enough now to have families of their own, and when our daughter had her third child, she chose to give him a middle name that blended the names of both her brothers who died. I was touched and honored, of course -- but I also experienced a huge sigh of relief at the idea that even after I myself am dead -- the next generation will talk about what this name means, who is being remembered, how the name is carried forward, etc. So in that way, the grief and love affect our grandchildren's generation, too. And isn't that amazing to have compassion and a sense of all the members of our tribe?!
I understand, too, the sense of regret. I have some of that myself -- many clients I work with have regrets, too. Over time, I've come to see that sometimes, regrets are just a part of the experience because it just never can be perfect. It just sucks to go through this kind of grief, our bodies and beings experience trauma, we don't know what to do in the moment, and we shut down. What we tend to forget in these regrets is this: in the moment, we are always doing the very best we can with what we have and what we know at the time. Over time, we may learn other skills for self-care, for communication, for re-creating compassionate care within the family system. And we will then re-visit how things went in the moment of trauma. A lot of regrets, for me personally, come in at that intersection. It's taken me a lot of work with my own coaches to unpack what happens in those moments. To question my own thoughts, to explore ideas like sending Reiki back in time to the version of myself who didn't know how to cope in that moment of trauma, and other creative tools like that.
I would encourage you to explore some of the creative tools we share regularly on the blog:
and experiment with those as you consider where you feel regret, how you've re-learned to live again in the face of grief, what you wish to express in self-care *and* in care of others *now*.
It can also be helpful in some cases -- again, gauge this and see how it feels to you personally -- to read the stories of others who have been in similar situations or who are expressing their grief experiences even when their situations of loss differ from ours. For me personally, it was helpful to hear stories of others and see how they cope, how they learn, how they walk in the world. Not because their answers will be my answers -- but just to see others surviving and thriving -- to see ideas for getting new perspectives on my own path. There are a few space that share stories generously and compassionately:
And there are a few stories from bereaved mothers themselves that have been eye-opening for me personally -- and for some clients who've wanted to explore them:
Hopefully this is a helpful start. Explore and experiment and don't be afraid to find the answers that are a right-fit for you personally. And be in touch again if I can be of service in any other way.