Dear Grieving Mom,
I see you there wishing you could die too. I see the tears trickling down your face in silence as you suffer the pain of child loss. I can feel the hole that is in your heart. I know that feeling well because I am a grieving mother too.
There are some things I want you to know. As impossible as it may seem, I promise you that you will survive this tragedy that has destroyed the person you were before your child died. I also want you to know that you are not alone, as lonely as this road feels. I am here with you, and so are countless others. Often we walk in silence.
Our broken hearts connect us.
When I look back on the five plus years I have spent on this road, there are a lot of things I wish I had known in the beginning. Now I want to share these tips with you
1. Choose to focus on your child's life, not their death. I wish I had known this simple thing, because once I started focusing the the 17 years I had with my daughter, the more grateful I was for what I had. When you focus on your child's life, you see the blessings and the happiness and joy and all the experiences that you and your child shared. My daughter was more than the moment she died. I want the world to know that Katie had a big laugh that could be heard 3 aisles over in the grocery store and that she had a serious make-up addiction and loved whipped topping on her Starbuck's coffee. I want people to remember her life, not her death.
2. Find your tribe and soon. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is the connection to other mothers who have lost a child. You might meet in person in a formal group setting, you might meet for coffee, or you might connect online in a Facebook group. No one else will know your pain or your journey like another grieving mother. You will find that another grieving mom just "gets it" - no matter what you say or don't say. There are many grief support groups online. If you are on Facebook you can search terms like 'child loss' or 'grief' or 'grieving mother' to help you find child loss groups. Join many, try them out, then stick with the ones that feel right for you. (The Hope & Healing Together Community is my tribe and the space that I created for moms who want to find a way to LIVE with this immense loss)
3. Let go of the guilt. You didn't cause your child's death and there's nothing you could have done to prevent it either. You did the very best you could at the time with the information you had. If you could have protected them you would have. If any of us could have saved our children we would have. You did not fail your child. Instead of asking 'what if?', we need to focus on 'what now?'. When we change the question we change the focus from being powerless (what if) to a position of having some control (what now). The only thing we can control is how we react. Maybe we can take our pain and pour it into creating positive change or maybe we reach out and help others.
4. It's ok to be ok. The first time you laugh or smile you will feel strange and maybe a little guilty, but I want you to know that your child lives on through you. When you smile, they smile. When you experience joy, they experience joy through you. As you walk this path you will learn that you will always carry grief in one hand, but you can carry joy in the other hand at the same time. The grief never goes away, but it changes. Grief can co-exist with happiness. As a psychic once said to me "Give your daughter something wonderful to watch. Live an amazing life as a way to honour her."
5. Stay strong. I know you hate this sentiment, Mama, but it needs to be said. You are going through the hardest thing any human being can ever go through. You are a warrior and you must keep your strength up. That means eating good food, replacing all those tears with plenty of water, moving your body in a way that feels good, and getting quality sleep. As moms we are the WORST at taking care of ourselves, but we absolutely need to. It's not negotiable.
Grief is really, really hard and self-care is the first step in coping after the loss of your child.
Walking beside you,
Lisa K. Boehm
About the author:
Lisa lost her daughter Katie in a car accident in 2015. After serious consideration of ending her own life, she began crawling out of the depths of grief through writing and connecting with other grieving moms. In 2019, she published her book Journey to HEALING, and in 2021 created The Angel Moms VIP Community where she helps other bereaved mothers find their way out of the darkness.
PS: Are you struggling with all the 'special days' throughout the year (Mother's day, Christmas, your child's birthday...just to name a few)? I have created a free download that gives you over 80 ideas to help you manage the day AND honour your child. You can check it out here.