Yesterday was International Bereaved Mother’s Day. In a million years I never thought I would be a part of this group, but here I sit, nearly 9 years into my bereavement of my own daughter. And my grief is still as real today as it was all those years ago when Olivia took her last breath.
You would think that with time, the grief has gotten easier. Or less heavy. But in reality, it never really lifts. It just changes. Sometimes it’s a little bit lighter, but other times it comes in like a wave, and without warning, it knocks me back down like a tidal wave.
When Olivia first died I went into shock. I was there. I knew she had died. But I simply couldn’t allow myself to feel the magnitude of losing her because it would have overtaken me. So instead of grieving, I went into survival mode. I was determined to love the rest of my family well, and to try to make all of them okay so that our family could survive the loss.
That survival mode went on for years. I would continually live almost in a dream, trying to make everyone else okay, while never actually dealing with my own grief or my own feelings of loss.
It wasn’t until I met and married my now husband that I finally had the space, love and support I needed to deal with the loss of my daughter. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty! Thank God he’s a patient man who was determined to put the pieces back together for the three very broken people he found in my children and I.
For about a year the grief and the brokenness were almost too much. I was exhausted! I felt like I was drowning in it, and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to come up for air. But with a lot of patience, prayer, and time spent healing, it did get better. And I can say now that I live in a much more real place with my grief, and I no longer try to stifle it like I did in my earlier years.
Today I am 8.5 years into this loss of a lifetime. And I am still actively grieving. I miss Olivia every single day. And I am still dealing with all the ways her loss has affected me and the other members of my family.
I won’t pretend for a moment to have all the answers for how to live successfully with grief. There are days when I think I’m doing okay, and there are days when I still need to spend a day or two in bed just allowing myself to feel the weight of this huge loss and all the sadness that goes with it. There are also days when I don’t have the luxury of getting to do that, and instead those around me sometimes pay the price for the tornado of grief that’s spinning around inside of me.
I wish I had a lot more than 20 months with my daughter. I wish I had a 10 year old girl right now who was growing up into a beautiful young woman. I miss having my mini-me and I'm sad for all the experiences I will never get the chance to share with her.
Today and every day, take the time to pray for and love on the bereaved mothers around you. You may not even realize some of them exist. You may think they are so strong from all they’ve experienced that they don’t actually need you. But I am here to tell you, they do. They just won’t be very likely to ask for it. They have probably learned a lot about suffering in silence and solidarity because it’s a loss unlike any other. But they shouldn’t have to keep living like that. Give them a hug. Invite them to coffee. Take a little time to learn about the child they lost and maybe even a little bit about the woman they were before they became a bereaved mother. You have no idea how much that would mean for both of you.
I have a love-hate relationship with Springtime. I love the increased sunshine and daylight hours and the first promises that summer is on the horizon. I hate it though when the weather changes on a dime and we are suddenly freezing cold under piles of snow after a few days of warmth and sunshine. The ups and downs can seriously mess with my mental well being!
This Spring has been extra hard and it has only just begun. The month of March has been filled with a lot of disappointment, loss, and countless things going horribly wrong that I have no control over. It’s been really difficult and I’ve struggled with the fact that I am anything but okay right now.
In the past when life was really hard I would slap on a fake smile and overcompensate by throwing myself into something (a project, holiday preparation, etc) to try and distract myself from really feeling the emotions and the heartbreak.
I would wear that fake smile like a badge of honor, willing myself to just be okay. But I wasn’t okay then and I’m really not okay now either.
But that is okay too!
What I’ve learned through all of these years and all the hard roads I’ve had to walk in my nearly 35 years of life is that it is actually more than okay to not be okay sometimes. That was a lesson I had to learn the hard way when I finally began to process the loss of my daughter and other really difficult life circumstances many years ago.
It wasn’t until I was very near a mental breakdown before I began to bask in the freedom of that knowledge, but thankfully it isn’t a lesson I have forgotten just yet.
I could beat myself up for struggling right now. I could slap on that fake smile and pretend that all is wonderful right now, but I know that is not what is best for me both now or in the future. So instead I am taking my old lessons and doing what I need to do to deal with this season now.
If this is you and this season is really hard, acknowledge how you are feeling and the why behind it. Cry if you need to, but let it out! When you don’t and you hold onto something and bury it deep inside is when you finally reach a point of explosion. And those explosions can be much harder to come back from.
When I am in a season of grief or heartbreak I have learned to stop and spend some time with it. I do some soul searching and understand where the sadness is coming from. And then I let it out. I pray. I journal. I cry. I share my feelings with some treasured people, and I just rest.
And you know what? Nine times out of 10 I wake up stronger and less consumed by grief the next day. I’ve managed my grief and my feelings instead of letting them handle me. It doesn’t mean all the sadness is gone after one day, and sometimes it’s a process that lasts a few weeks or even a month, but I know if I stick with it, over time I will find my joy and my peace again.
Yes, I have suffered a lot of loss in my life. And yes, right now I have stressors coming at me from just about every direction. But I am going to lift my eyes and look up, count my blessings, and work on getting a real smile on my face. And you, my friend, can do the same, even if it feels impossible right now.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.