Saturday, 10 March 2012

What is Grief?

This is a post I wrote a week or so ago. I have umm'd and ahh'd over whether to post it or not but after a couple of particularly hard days I decided to go ahead. Sometimes I struggle to put things into words when speaking with friends and find it easier to do in this format. So, here goes...

A few months ago I had no idea what grief was. I have experienced people dying, both young and old, before and have been very affected by this. I've had relationships break down in the past and have dealt with close friends moving away. But nothing could have prepared me for the sense of grief that I have felt over the past few months. It's so hard to put it into words when people ask what it feels like or how we're doing but I found this poem that does it perfectly. It was read out at a cathedral service we went to which was held for parents who had lost children:

"An Ugly Pair of Shoes"

I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in this world.
Some woman are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don't hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.

Author Unknown

I often get people saying to me 'I just don't/didn't know what to say to you or do for the best. I think until you are in the situation, and I truly wouldn't wish it on anyone, there is no way of knowing what the best thing to do is. I've found a few things to be really helpful and if you're reading this having had a friend/family member go through losing a child maybe this could help?

Remember to think before you act. Grief can make people incredibly vulnerable and sensitive. Insensitive actions/comments can feel infinitely worse than you might think and can bring grieving parents back down to 'rock bottom'.

Being avoided by people can be really hurtful. I feel it's important to acknowledge the child that's died rather than avoid the subject. Emilie meant the world to us.

Even if someone looks ok, it doesn't mean that they are! Make up and nice clothes can cover up a multitude of sins ;-)

It's been nearly 6 months for us now. The grief is just as strong as ever, we've just learned to manage it a but more. That doesn't mean we're ok or it's time to move on, it just means out capacity to cope is improving.

People have made such a fuss of Sam and this is possibly one of the things we are most grateful for. He has experienced loss too and desperately misses his baby sister. Knowing people love him and enjoy being around him really gives him a boost . We have a few friends who he adores; one couple in particular who don't have children yet; and seeing him with them, being made a fuss of and being his happy little self is incredibly special!

I guess what I'm trying to say in all this is there's no 'right' way to respond to us. Nothing is going to bring Emilie back or lessen our pain but knowing that people love and support us and are willing to share our pain means more than you could know.

So... I hope you'll forgive this self indulgent post. The poem spoke to me so much and in such a way that I felt compelled to share it. I hope it can put into words what I can't.

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