January 30th – marks a very significant day for my family and I. It was my very first experience of profound grief. Four years ago today, I lost my daughter, Victoria, half way through my pregnancy. It was my first loss. While I went through the 3 phases of shock and grief on repeat, every member of my family including my husband, my parents, and even my daughter, experienced their own version of grief. It was the first time I endured something as traumatic as this, and that feeling has never really gone away.
Later that year, I fell pregnant again and this time we were excited (and quite confident) we were going to meet our son, William. But a few months prior to his due date, January 30th of the following year (also, halfway through our pregnancy), he was delivered prematurely with no chance of survival. Again, the trauma and grief resurfaced.
For the following two years we suffered 2 more late losses and another 5 early miscarriages to follow. The word grief barely scratches the surface of what I was experiencing those three horrific years of trying to conceive a healthy baby.
But somehow, 4 years later, I am able to write this with a light heart, on the anniversary of the first loss of my second child. Apparently, in the last four years, I have found a handful of ways to help me move through grief and to move away from being paralyzed by it.
Here are 5 ways I have been able to move through my grief after loss:
1:: 5 WAYS THAT HELPED ME MOVE THROUGH GRIEF: Seeking Change
Have you ever experienced the end of a good run, or a break up with a significant other and the first order of business was to make an appointment to get your hair done? Yeah – me too. And Little Mama feels the exact same way. Hair grows back, after all…
Change is good. Change may even be necessary. And change certainly does its part to distract and diverge. But when it comes to grief, a simple change of aesthetics may not be enough.
What I needed was a change of mindset. And how could I do that? By changing my overall outlook, I had to look inward. Where did I need the most change? That was an easy one. The place I called home.
I have spent many hours, days, months, and years in a home that was dark, gloomy, and sad. It wasn’t my home. It was a borrowed home. My brother’s dark couch (worked great in his bachelor pad, once upon a time) which I often referred to as my grieving couch, dark mustard colored walls that I have dreamt of painting for years, and a layout that didn’t represent me or my family. So I started to purge. I followed the KonMari method and got rid of things that offered a sense of “bad juju” and replaced them with things that made our home feel more “us”.
We added family photos, changed the overall flow and look of our home, kept things light and minimal, and removed all reminders of sadness. We made our house into a home.
2:: 5 WAYS THAT HELPED ME MOVE THROUGH GRIEF: Be Grateful
I have a beautiful little girl. She’s healthy. She’s happy. She’s safe.
I have an incredible husband. He gets me. I’m myself with him. He encourages me to follow through with my dreams. He loves and lives for his family. He’s also ridiculously cute. In a world of chaos and broken family relationships, we are blessed to have peace within our family.
I have a home. I eat an abundance of food (even a plethora of restaurants to choose from). I have a car. My child has toys. A LOT of them.
I have incredible friends. Some I laugh with, some I cry with. I have learned to cope with the breakdown of friendships where the bonds and ties aren’t real, and have become more in tune with solid relationships.
I’m alive. I’m well. I have choices. I live in a beautiful city on a beautiful island.
So why am I still so sad? I ask this of myself every time I have my grieving moments. I know that dark place in my mind is real and although I may not always be in the midst of this dark place, it never really goes away. But when it creeps up on me when I least expect it, I face it, and then remind myself of what I have, trying my best to move away from focusing on what I don’t have.
I keep a journal of gratitude so I can look back and remind myself that gratitude may be the only way I can avoid drowning. As I come up for air and take in little reminders of the little and great things I have in my life, slowly but surely, I start to gain the confidence to swim again.
3:: 5 WAYS THAT HELPED ME MOVE THROUGH GRIEF: Do Things That Bring Happiness
I’ve been making it a point to go on long walks while listening to uplifting music. It’s become part of my everyday. The moment I step foot outside of my house, with my go-to Pumas, I feel a weight being lifted. Nothing is heavier than grief. It weighs you down emotionally, spiritually, and eventually it ways you down physically. It’s dark and paralyzing. So when I take these daily walks, I invite lightness into my life. I welcome the fresh air. Even when it rains, I feel the beauty of walking in through the dampness, which I once saw as depressing. There’s something about creating a space and time for happiness. Some people call it “fake it til you make it”, I like to call it – taking baby steps to finding happiness, until it actually starts to fill your everyday.
4:: 5 WAYS THAT HELPED ME MOVE THROUGH GRIEF: Play
When things are grey, nothing adds more color than play.
As much as possible, during our bouts of grief, our family finds ways to bring play back into our lives. We know that carrying the burden of sadness in the presence of a then toddler/preschooler, is doing a disservice to our little one. This doesn’t mean we aren’t honest and open with our feelings with Little Mama, this just means we prioritize as much moments of play and fun as we do, allowing our family to sort through our grief.
And wouldn’t you know it – we end up having fun, after all.
5:: 5 WAYS THAT HELPED ME MOVE THROUGH GRIEF: Face It and Talk About it
I have mastered the art of pretense when it comes to grief. I have learned to suppress the tears and the sadness and have excelled in the forced smile department. I’m not saying my moments of bliss aren’t real – but certainly, there are days where I am feeling less than inspired, incredibly deflated, and just not ready to introduce a bounce back into my step.
And those days are okay.
I’ve become aware that grief isn’t a topic that many people are comfortable talking about or dealing with. In my world, however, I found that facing my grief head on, is the only way I can truly work through it. I have to throw all pretense out the window and see those moments for what they really are.
So I do just that. I blog about it. I jot down thoughts in a notebook. I read past entries and relive those feelings. I let it come out. Whether it’s through tears, or speaking about it – I let it out. I don’t try to compensate for the grief by being angry, or being overly joyful – I simply live through the grief. The sooner I face it, the sooner I am able to move along with it.
I have been faced with a few challenges along the way. Husband rarely expresses his grief overtly – to me, or anyone else. At one point, I found it offensive and downright wrong and it was what almost broke us those first few years of loss. What I didn’t realize is that his grief manifests itself in different ways. At first he used to illustrate how he envisioned his babies in his mind, later he lost the ability to translate their image into artform. So much so, that he had to stop all together. He becomes especially distracted with the non-essentials at the key points of our grief because facing it is just too difficult. But in his own time, it would hit him like a slap in the face.
Then there was a friend that questioned my grief. I found myself holding back with my feelings because I was afraid of what this so-called friend would think of me. I prioritized how my grief would look to others rather than honoring and loving myself enough to grieve the way I needed to, in the time that was necessary. This friend has long since gone, and I have been able to freely go through the ups and downs of grief without added guilt and sacrifice.
Sometimes, it’s not the grief that we have to let go… it’s the unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves that we need to let go. We’re only human after all.
Bonus Fave :: 5 WAYS THAT HELPED ME MOVE THROUGH GRIEF: Know There’s a Light At the End of the Proverbial Tunnel
Tenth time’s a charm, right?
Well… that’s what I’m telling myself. And I’m sticking to it. I’m sure all my loved ones, whether they will admit it or not, think I’m absolutely crazy for trying to get pregnant again. Who can blame them? But instead of looking at it as the 10th stubborn attempt to having a healthy baby, I’m referring to this choice as not giving up hope. To rely on such hope, keep the faith, and do all I can to enjoy the process along the way. That, is definitely life worth living.
Don’t forget to visit our fabulous co-host of #5faves at The Koala Mom. We would love to hear some of YOUR five favorite things too. Link up below!
You don’t have to move on from your grief, move through it.