Updated: Sep 7
Are you feeling lost? Alone? Confused? Broken? Unsure you can survive child loss? I know this feeling well.
I remember feeling that way when the officer and coroner came to my house to tell me my 17 year old daughter Katie had died in a head-on collision.
The carpet has been ripped from underneath you. How can you possibly keep going? Every mother facing child loss asks the same thing: "How is it possible to live without my child?".
Child loss is like an amputation - it's a loss that is with you every single day of your life. You have no choice but to learn how to live with that loss. It sucks, but it's true.
Like an amputee, everything you do feels different and not the way you imagined your life to be. You've lost a big part of your purpose and your identity and sometimes it seems like there is nothing left to live for. The darkness is overwhelming and the physical pain is unrelenting. You learn to take survival minute by minute, then day by day, eventually building your life around your grief and loss.
I remember falling to my knees early on in my grief journey and yelling at the universe - pleading for help "Just tell me what to do!". I felt so lost.
I knew deep down inside that there was no way to 'fix' my grief, but I wanted to know how I could help myself, my husband, and my son.
When you are pregnant, there are resources everywhere to help you find the answers that you seek. There are thousands of books available and every mom will excitedly share her experiences with you. When your child dies, resources are limited. The resources out there typically fall into two categories: theoretical books written by 'experts' who have not gone through the agony of child loss or stories of child loss that may not resonate with you or your experience. While all of these resources offer some assistance, we all want to know "how does this relate to me and my child?"
We are all individuals. Our stories may be different, but the fact that we have lost a child binds our hearts together.
You may be asking the same questions and I did, wanting the same answers, and be begging to know what to do - how to survive the death of your child.
So, how can you help yourself when you can barely get out of bed or get dressed? The same way you climb a mountain - one baby step at a time. Some days you will find you can do more, some days nothing at all, but when your strength allows, try to take a tiny step forward and take care of yourself.
One of the cornerstones of survival and healing is self-care. You might be thinking why? Who cares? Let me tell you why....because you are a warrior fighting the toughest battle anyone has ever fought.
You are going through the hardest battle that you will ever have to endure. Ever. You wouldn't expect any other kind of warrior to go to battle without being strong and healthy.
Even if you don't want to hear it, I need to tell you something.
You need to:
get at least 6 hours of sleep (minimum!)
drink more water to replace all those tears (6-8 cups per day)
nourish your body so that you are strong (more of the good stuff, less of the unhealthy stuff)
Contact your physician and let them know about your situation and your loss. Go back several times. Ask about a referral for help with your mental health. Be open to seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Goodness knows there is no gold medal for enduring grief without help.
Be open to the need for medication. I am not a doctor or a pharmacist, but I do know that the majority of bereaved mothers need medical assistance at some point on their journey. Medication, whether it's sleep aids or anti-depressants, do not have to be forever. Many people need short-term help with medication...and that's ok!
My point is that you need to be ok with asking for help. Every mom on this journey needs help of some kind. Every single one.
In the early stages of grief, I wanted advice from other mothers who were walking this path. I wanted those moms to say: "Try this. This is what helped me..."
After more than four years, I started to see a pattern in my own healing and wrote a book called Journey to HEALING: A Mother's Guide to Navigating Child Loss. I took everything I have learned about survival and created the resource that I had been looking for at the beginning of my grief journey.
One thing that has helped me survive the loss of my daughter is helping other mothers with their pain and loss. Katie was a helpful spirit. To honour her as I live out my days on earth, I choose to embrace that spirit and help other families who have found themselves on this path through grief. If you are looking to connect with other mothers who are walking this path of child loss with you, request to join my private Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/childlossgriefsupport
While there is no manual on grieving your child, there are numerous ways to help yourself on this journey. If you are unsure where to begin and would like to start taking small baby steps towards healing, check out my Favourite Grief Resources for Grieving Mothers the first step to surviving grief.
I hope that you find a resource here that speaks to you and that helps you on your journey through grief. Never be afraid to reach out.