Grieving – an individual journey
Grieving is the process we go through in order to come to terms with our loss. It is an unwelcome journey that all bereaved parents find themselves on.
I’m sure we’d all agree that each person on this planet is unique – no two people are exactly the same. Even identical twins that are difficult to tell apart when you meet them have some differences, perhaps in their character and approaches more than physical attributes. So it makes sense that every individual will approach and deal with their grief in a unique way.
Our unwanted journey
Whilst some theories related to grief can be very helpful, it isn’t a good idea to think of our unwanted journey of grieving as having any sort of standard format. When supporting someone who is experiencing the rawness of the trauma of their child’s death, it is important not to be prescriptive in any advice we give. However, someone’s personal story is a powerful instrument that produces a melody we can take and develop into our own life’s song. And often those songs are very different indeed.
We are all different
Some people will deal with their loss by talking about it a lot. They need someone with them who will listen, perhaps over and over and over again. And as time goes on, that is still important. Others need to do something as well – perhaps writing everything down, making something to commemorate their child’s life or express their own strong emotions, engaging in physical activity with a purpose, or fundraising for a charity to bring some good to others out of their own pain. Some people will feel the need to do something very different, perhaps changing their day-to-day environment completely, whilst others crave the familiarity of their surroundings and cannot contemplate changing anything. And all of that, along with a myriad of other reactions, is totally fine and completely normal!
Distractions can be unhealthy
Some of us aren’t very good at communicating how we are feeling. Whilst it’s not totally confined to one gender, men particularly can struggle with this. As a result, we can sometimes turn to unhelpful ways of dealing with the pain of our loss. In the long term (and sometimes the short term too), these can cause more damage and hurt to ourselves and those around us. They are distractions that halt the process of coming to terms with our loss. Consumption of large quantities of alcohol, or the use of non-prescription drugs, may temporarily numb the pain but will also have a detrimental impact on those closest to us who are desperately trying to provide support, love and care. Running away from our surviving family with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle may block out some of our own pain but it will make everything so much worse for those we leave behind. Other distractions such as immersing ourselves in our work to an unhealthy extent, or engaging in affairs or other sexual activities will not, in the long run, help us.
There is huge merit in talking about your issues
In recent years there has been much helpful study and research into the subject of bereavement and loss. It is now well recognised by professionals that being able to be free to talk about what has happened following any traumatic event, does lessen the need of further and more complex intervention at a later stage of life. You may have seen the high profile discussions in the media, with Rio Ferdinand and the Princes William and Harry speaking up about the need to talk about their losses and seek help for the sake of their own mental health. It’s a bit like the safety valve on a pressure cooker – if you block it up, severe damage will result.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Prince Harry spoke from personal experience when he said, “I know there is huge merit in talking about your issues and the only thing about keeping it quiet is that it’s only ever going to make it worse.”
He’s completely right – and Bereaved Parent Support has been offering that opportunity to bereaved parents through our telephone befriending service and events since we started in 1999. So do find someone to talk with about your loss and how you feel. That may well be a family member or a close friend in your local community, but if you want to talk with someone who understands, because they are on that journey too, then please get in touch with us. You can visit our website for more information, email us or telephone 029 2081 0800. Just don’t keep it all to yourself – it won’t help in the long run.