About eight weeks after my son was killed, I wondered if I was normal. Initially, I been so "strong" as everyone said but now I was falling apart. I cried more and felt so much worse then I did at first so I went to see a counselor. He had never personally lost a child though. I tried to hold it together in his office in order to tell my story - I thought that was what I needed to do. But he concluded that I was not in touch with my grief, that I needed to face it and go through it. With that affirmation, my grief welled back up to the surface just as our time was over.
I dashed to the bathroom, far, far down the hall and around the corner, where I thought no one would hear me, and locked the door . My grief burst out in tears and sobs. After a while, there was a little knock on the door. It was the counselor, “Are you all right? Please don’t cry." I was confused since he had just said I needed to get in touch with the grief, and he knew my life had been devastated, how could I be alright - and not cry? I pulled myself together and left without saying anything further though. That was part of my mistake.
To my credit, I did not go back to him but I went to see a different counselor. She concluded I was too in touch with my grief and that I was being "tormented". I was puzzled: the other counselor gave me the opposite advice and that grief, by definition, was painful torment! But I left feeling like I was a cry baby and should "get over it" and suck it in. That was part of my mistake.
After that, I pushed my grief down deep and added a yucky layer of guilt and a big manure load of shame on top of it. To cope, some people might turn to drink, but me, I much preferred shopping - retail therapy! I also watched TV and ate salt and vinegar potato chips till my tongue was raw. I did feel different - but not better. My grief was still buried deep inside me and I was avoiding it. That was my mistake.
I finally did find a good grief counselor and yes, I was perfectly normal! In the initial shock and numbness, it may look like we are not facing our grief. However, as the shock wears off, great pain emerges. I cried my eyes dry every night for weeks. That hurts, but for many people, it helps the grief get out. When we try to hold in our bodies, it is like a steam kettle with a cork in it. It affects us, body soul and spirit. Eventually it blows - and often at the wrong place and wrong time!
I made some mistakes but I grew and learned to respect my own grief process. I hope I can save you from salt and vinegar potato chip burn and my other grief pitfalls. There are good coaches and counselors and some of the best who really “get it”, have also gone through it. Today, eight years later, I love making it easier for others. Learn from my mistakes, after all loss is one of the hardest possible journeys.
If you are struggling with loss or grief, get the support you need. For more helpful blog articles scroll down. Included are Birthday Parties in Heaven, He is not here, Just tell Me What Happened and The Worst Nightmare plus helpful Renewing Resilience Tips.
For additional grief and loss resources, including a no-obligation Intake Grief Coaching session with Helga Bender MThS, click here.
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