He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it.
– Turkish Proverb
I think there is wisdom, truth and power in this proverb. It sounds so simple. Do you really have two chooses?
1. You can conceal their pain and never find peace again or
2. You can reveal and share your pain in hopes of feeling peace.
It’s worth a try right? I kept my pain, guilt and shame hidden for a long time. I was afraid that others would think I was weak or a terrible person. We all experience the pain of grief after the death of a child and many of us also carry around guilt associated with the “should’ve, would’ve or could’ve” questions that enter our mind. These questions are all part of trying to comprehend what has happened. It’s a process that all of us must go through in order to even remotely come close to feeling peace again. I am not saying the pain will be erased forever and you will be able to skip down the street again with a big smile on your face. What I am saying is if we reveal everything that is going on inside and make yourself transparent, then maybe just maybe there will be days ahead where you wake up without the deep deep dread that something is desperately wrong.
I believe that revealing your thoughts and pain is important to letting it out and reconstructing our negative thoughts. Do you think it’s possible to reconstruct your thoughts? Maybe some of the thoughts or beliefs were not constructed on facts. For whatever reason maybe our mind painted a picture that wasn’t accurate. I want everyone to understand, I am not saying the pain of grief after the death of a child isn’t real, because it is very real. What I am talking about is the negative self talk that we manage to punish ourselves over. For example: I woke up after a bad dream one morning that made me feel like I was a terrible dad. I was freaking out to the point my anxiety was getting the best of me and I decided to call a couple of trusted friends and tell them my story so they could help me reconstruct my beliefs. One of the friends basically walked me through the facts. He said:
1. You loved your children
2. You did everything you could to protect them
3. You are a great dad because if you were not, you wouldn’t be feeling this pain.
I do not believe it was intentional on his part, but when I hung up the phone, I felt different. I felt better, not great, but better. I pondered our conversation the rest of the day and finally I came to the realization that he was right. I was a great dad and I did everything I could do to protect them the best way I could. He helped me reconstruct my thoughts.
This is just one example of the negative thoughts that I spent the most part of 2 years trying to process. If I would have never dared to speak or reveal my pain, I would have never had the opportunity to have someone else help me reshape my beliefs. I would still be processing them with the same negative and self inflicted abuse.
I encourage everyone to talk about everything you are feeling or thinking. I hear from others that tell me that it hurts too much to talk about the pain. Is that a bad thing? I believe you have to go to the pain in order to get through the pain. You may have to go there several times before the pain starts to let up a little. It’s not like the pain ever goes away if you don’t talk about it, it’s just buried down deep and waiting to be processed.
There are so many ways to help you process your pain and thoughts. You could use therapy, writing, art, talk to a friend or a pet, exercise, etc. The numbers of ways to get it out is endless. I have used several. I would go for a run or an intense mountain bike ride with the intent of processing the events. I would cry the whole time. Did it hurt, hell yes it hurt. But afterwards I would feel a sense of release. It would give me some time to catch my breath before the next round of processing forced itself on me.
What do you think of this topic? Do you agree with me or not (its okay if you don’t, I will not be offended)? How do you get it out?
You couldn’t be more right. To allow yourself to open up to those who care most about
you opens up new pathways to process our grief. Your note elegant and so true.
The example you gave re: guilt, is one I have struggled with for months and friends have helped me reprocess it. THANK YOU FOR THIS IMPORTANT INSIGHT!
Paul S. Schulman M. D.
You are welcome! I am glad you found this blog. Opening up to allow others to help you carry the burden is very important. It has a lot to do with setting your pride to the side and allowing others to help. Not always easy to do, I understand that.
Thank you for sharing. Stop back often.
Everyday I look for a “Remedy” for my grief, but I never find any. Sometimes I don’t think there really is. I find brief moments of joy, like most people I guess. It’s never lasting though. Our journey is a life long one without our lost children. For me it has been painful and lonely. I’m searching for an honorable purpose to live. One that my son would be proud of me for. I just go on looking day by day for a “Remedy” for our lost relationships, dreams and joy.
You are correct, it is a life long journey. It is painful and it can be lonely. I encourage you to keep searching for that honorable purpose. It took me a lot of time to get to where I am today with this Grieving Dads Project. It has become my mission to reach out to other dads to let them know they are not alone, there are millions of us grieving dads (and moms) out there and we should do whatever it takes to lift each other up. We are the only ones who understand this pain.
Keep searching and keep the faith that you will find it. Hang on to those brief moments of joy, they are so valuable to giving you strength for the next round of pain that hits. One of my counselors (yes I had more than one) gave me a good idea that I used for about a year. I developed a simple spreadsheet/chart that I tracked my mood/thoughts every day (twice a day early on). I would rank my day using a 1 – 10 scale (10 being the best). What this did for me was it allowed me to track trends and it allowed me to look back on a day that I was feeling like a 1 or 2 and realize that I had a 8 two days prior. It’s easy to forget the days that are good when you are having a bad day. Looking back over a course of a month and realizing I felt better than a five 50% of the month was not so bad. I hung on to that hope that things were going to get better and I was able to prove it by looking back at where I came from. Just an idea that worked for me. I really had a hard time not having hope. All I felt was despair and I had never felt that before and it scared the hell out of me.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Let me know if you want the spreadsheet, I can email it over to you.
One thing I feel absolutely confident in is that I was the best father I could possibly be. Both my wife and I were in the Navy when our daughter, Allison, was born back in 1986, and we both had “duty days” wherein we had to be on base for a minimum of 24 hours. That meant that I had to be able to do all those things related to raising a child from day one. I firmly believe that Allison turned into the beautiful young, smart women she was because she had both parents heavily involved in her life as she grew up.
We both read to her every single night from the time she was about 2 years old. One of the most “disappointing” times I can remember is the night she said to me, “No, Daddy, let me read the story to you!” That signaled the end to my making funny voices but also the beginning of her good grades in school. Before too long, neither one of us were reading Allison stories as she was reading books on her own.
She wasn’t a perfect child and she got her normal quota of scrapes and bruises as she grew up, and at one point her grades started slipping because she wasn’t paying attention in class. We made sure one of us was there where she got home from school and made her do her homework before she went out to play, and before long, her grades went back to A’s and B’s. We also found out, many years after the fact, that she didn’t like green beans, because when I retired in March 2000 and we went to move from Virginia to Texas, there behind the dresser was a whole bunch of dried green beans!
She never got into the drug scene or drank alcohol, would definitley push the boundary on curfews as a teenager, and got into a couple of minor fender benders as she started driving. But she went on from high school to college and earned her Associates degree in Business before finally marrying a very fine young man who loved her very much.
So my wife and I have no regrets about being good parents…we were. I think the fact that her death was so sudden and so unexplained has a lot to do with the almost numbness I feel. The ME’s office came back with a cause of death that, while it may be medically correct, it makes absolutely no sense. I tried to make sense of it for a while, then decided to just give it up because it was exhausting me both physically and emotionally. I made the decision to let go just a few days ago because no matter what I found out, it would make no difference in the outcome…Allison is gone from our lives.
To specifically address Kelly’s question about a “remedy”, I personally still internalize it pretty much…it’s been too soon….not enough time has passed. My wife and I talk on a daily basis about what we’re feeling and she talks to her mother nightly. I, in turn, talk to my father, who also lost a son, and to friends, and post on boards like this one. I briefly attempted to start my own blog but quicky lost interest because I got no feedback.
In my eyes, feedback is an essential element in being able to recover, and that feedback has to be meaningful, not something like, “Well, if you need something just let me know and I’ll be there for you.” So I have people I talk to that have actually lost children or other relatives, and friends I talk to that will just listen to my rants, and others that will talk to me about anything but Allison without me feeling like I’m being patronized and treated with kid gloves. I need to have a balance of opinions in this crazy, upside-down time in my life and I am fortunate enough to have friends and family that can provide that balance.
Not the least of which is my wife of 28 years.
I blog about my loss and when I feel it’s getting too heavy I throw some light stuff on there. I guess that’s called putting the mask on. I don’t know where to go with my grief. I met my boyfriend one week to the day of my daughter’s wake. There is a connection, one I’ve yet to explain… between them although they have never met.
Long story shorter, I can’t figure out how to balance between being a grieving mother and a happy girlfriend. He’s a happy person and I’m… feeling destroyed.
It takes time to figure all of this stuff out. Sounds to me that you are both, a grieving mom and a happy girlfriend, and that’s ok. Maybe I am reading to much into your words, but it sounds like there is a sense of guilt from being a happy girlfriend. We as humans are great at making ourselves feel guilty. Embrace the moment you are in, whether it’s a grieving mom or a happy girlfriend. Let it be what it is at the moment. Don’t beat yourself up. It sound like you boyfriend has accepted this about you. It is who you are right now in you life. As one very wise woman told me when I was deep in my grief and struggeled with guilt, “Be kind to yourself”.
Thanks for stopping by the Grievign Dads blog. You are welcomed here any time.
Thank you Kelly. Although I am a grieving mom (and not a dad) I relate to everything you say on your blog. It helps me quite a bit.
Most of the grieving moms (and I have my fair share it) have what I call the “butterfly and rainbows syndrome” about loss. I don’t have it to the degree they do but I understand it very well since I have a touch of it myself. In no way am I saying it is not the “right way”. There is no wrong way.
I don’t know if I am making sense…