It has been said that “each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint” (David Kessler). In my experience, this is so true. In November 2004 my youngest daughter, Marguerite, died. My world was turned upside down. Her death was sudden, which made it even harder to believe, or accept. I believe when a child is born that, psychologically, the umbilical cord is never cut. A part of me went with her to the grave.
The first year was a complete blur. As a family, we tried to put our focus on the funeral and then the month’s mind, taking care to pick out photos for her memorial bookmark. Then her headstone had to be picked out. I will never forget when the concrete base of the headstone went on the soft earth, over her. It felt so cruel and so final. In the early days, I used to visit her every day and at times I wished I was with her. However, thanks to wonderful support of a therapist, I began to embrace life again. Alongside the therapy I had the incredible support of my family and friends; they helped me more than they will ever know.
After this, I made a decision to enrol in a counselling course and qualified in 2014. I decided to specialise in grief and loss. I finally understood the grief process and wanted to reach out to others and support them on their grief journeys.
How would I explain grief?
When a loved one dies we are bereaved. From there we mourn (what people see on the outside) e.g. crying, wearing dark clothes, etc. Grief is what happens to us (what goes on in the inside, what people cannot see).
The nature of our grief depends on the severity of our loss. “The worst loss is always your loss. Only you know your loss and the meaning.” (David Kessler). So even though you are mourning the same person, your grief experiences will vary as you each had your own individual relationship with the person who died.
There are various coping mechanisms when it comes to living with grief and loss. When it comes to processing our grief we will all find our own way. Below I share some suggestions, which you may like to try:
Having someone to talk to
Someone who is prepared to listen and give you a shoulder to lean on and not offer platitudes. Sometimes a regular chat and a cuppa after can really help.
Keeping a grief journal
I personally found this very helpful. As well as writing down all my feelings I would also write little notes to marguerite telling her how much I love and miss her. When we write it’s like we offload a ton of suppressed emotions on to the paper and it helps lighten the load we carry.
Planting a tree or shrub in their memory
There is a lovely cherry blossom growing in the grounds of Marguerite’s old school and I bring a spray of it out to her grave each year (I have permission to do this). It is a bitter sweet experience but brings comfort to know her memory lives on at scoil mhuire.
Getting out in nature
Nature can offer many benefits. It can be a very healing experience. Sometimes it is good to take time out and be on your own. Sometimes this is where the tears might decide to fall. Let them. Give yourself permission to grieve. Remember grief is the price we pay for love.
There are many helpful publications to be found in book shops and online. Reading can be a means of support and comfort. Understanding what is happening and knowing that life eventually becomes bearable again can help reduce the anxiety one sometimes experiences following the loss of a loved one.
Bereavement support groups are also invaluable when it comes to coping with loss. You can bring a friend if it’s too difficult to go alone. There’s usually a cup of tea on offer too (in normal times).
These are just suggestions. As time goes by and we work through our grief it gradually becomes less intense and we embrace life once more. A different kind of life, but we do learn to laugh and smile again and take an interest in all that is going on with the world.
The more we understand the grief process the more we heal and also it helps us to understand what others are going through and how to be of help to them.
Not a day goes by that I do not think of my precious girl.
We grieve because we have loved.
We need to grieve in order to heal.
Let grief be your friend.
– Claire Lyons Forde