The loss of a child is a profound experience that is difficult to put into words. Only those who have gone through it can truly understand the pain, and even then, each person's journey is unique.
Grief is often oversimplified, but the truth is that it can take many forms. External factors beyond our control can complicate the process, making it challenging to navigate.
While it's true that time can help heal some wounds, it doesn't necessarily apply in the case of grief. Even if you come to terms with your loss, you will always grieve the loss of your child. The feelings of sadness and loss may linger for a long time.
Grieving is a process that requires patience, and over time, the pain will gradually ease. You will eventually establish a new routine and move forward with your life, but the memory of your child will always hold a special place in your heart.
Trying to Navigate Grief
Grief is a deeply personal journey, and it's important to listen to your inner voice and what it's telling you that you need. As long as your choices are not harmful to yourself or others, it's okay to walk this path in your own way. Give yourself time to grieve and be patient with yourself.
When grieving, it's not uncommon to disengage and withdraw socially and emotionally. Here are a few reasons why:
You may find it difficult to focus on anything other than your loss/grief.
The things you once enjoyed may seem meaningless or unimportant.
Activities may remind you of your loved one, leading to disengagement.
You may feel anxious about social interaction or encountering grief triggers.
It may feel safe and comfortable to not push yourself.
You may believe that time alone will help you feel better.
It's important to recognize that both grief and depression can cause someone to retreat from life. It's hard for someone on the outside to recognize the difference.
Coping with Loss and Grief
Acceptance is not equal with boredom or unimportance. It is the act of embracing the present reality without resistance. When dealing with grief, it's common to feel lonely and disconnected, even when surrounded by loved ones.
Consider the activities that you have stopped doing since your loved one passed away. What used to bring you joy or a sense of fulfillment that you no longer do?
For some, being alone is preferable to being around others. They enjoy the freedom of entertaining their own thoughts and hobbies without needing to contribute to the conversations or activities of others. After catering to the needs of others for so long, they desire the support of a peaceful existence.
As a result, friends and family may stop inviting them to join in activities, and they become more comfortable doing things alone in their own environment. The longer they spend away from others, the more comfortable they feel in separateness. Their feelings towards their family and friends haven't changed, but their life has changed, and due to all the changes, there will be some friends and family who will get upset with the grieving mother because of the isolation.
Some may feel that an ample amount of time has passed, and they should be back to normal. Losing a child means that their normal no longer exists. It's best to adjust to the person you love who has suffered a tremendous loss that changed them, one day they might resume activities, maybe, one day.
Therapy may help them make changes to feel better. However, many people who disengage live productive lives doing exactly what they want to do. It's not gloomy disengaging as some might think. Many of them run businesses from their homes. Some may concentrate their time on being more relaxed and less productive, but if they are happy and content with where they're at, they are in a better place than many people who are rarely alone yet feel lonely often.
The New Normal: Supporting Grieving Mothers After the Loss of a Child
Regardless of whether it's been one year, ten years, or thirty years since the loss of a child, a mother's life is forever changed. It's important for family and friends to understand that the grieving mother's new normal will look different from what they remember. It's not unusual for a mother to become more reclusive after the loss of a child. This change may go unnoticed for those who weren't close to her before. Here are a couple of ways to support a grieving mother:
Avoid making the mother feel like she no longer cares for others. Meet her in her new mental space by including her verbally and making phone calls more enjoyable.
Don't put expectations on physical appearances (holidays, birthdays, weddings, parties, etc.) to avoid disappointment. Random appearances may be made, but don't take this as signifying more love for one person over another. They just felt an urge to get up, dress up and get out for that event or occasion. This might not happen frequently, so don't make any assumptions.
Life after the loss of a child cannot be explained or understood. It's important to recognize that the mother has experienced something that has forever changed her life.
Supporting a Grieving Mother: Tips to Help without Pressure
It's important to offer support to a grieving mother without overwhelming her with requests to seek counseling. Sometimes, what she needs is simply someone to talk to. Take the time to listen and let her speak, but if you sense she's fixating on sad memories, gently steer the conversation towards more uplifting topics.
Consider introducing her to new movies, free movie apps, free phone games, new recipes, crafts, home decorating ideas, pets, beauty hacks, or arranging calls with upbeat friends and family to join in on conversations. However, avoid suggesting expensive or habit-forming activities since this could lead to a different type of support group.
Be mindful of her comfort zone, especially if she's prone to isolation. Remember, depression and grief can look alike, so pay attention to any signs of distress. If she seems to be withdrawing, avoid adding to the pressure by letting her know that you're there for her without pushing. By respecting her feelings and offering gentle support, you can help her find a path forward.