Rhia, young bereaved mum of three shared the 10 things that helped her survive the first year of bereavement.
10 things that helped me survive the first year of bereavement
As a young bereaved parent I have found some of my greatest champions, supporters and friends through the loss of my children have been other mums, young and old, so I thought on International Women’s Day I would show my thank yous to these incredible women by sharing everything they have taught me with other bereaved young parents.
The first of 10 things that helped me survive the first year of bereavement. Before I first got pregnant, I was a self-confessed ice queen, I just didn’t cry, in public or in private. But since I swear my hormones just never turned off. At first I was afraid to cry in case the tears never stopped, then I was afraid in case there weren’t enough tears. Then I was afraid to show the world my tears in case they didn’t understand every one was the product of such love. I was afraid to cry in front of anyone because it showed how much I was no longer me. I also found it hard to cry, because for the longest time and even now, it hurt my heart to know that in this world at least, my three babies would never cry. My best advice is cry all of the time; cry wherever, cry in front of everyone, sometimes it’s all you can do.
2. Ignoring the scales
Every loss is different, everyone’s grief is different and so is everyone’s path. Even these 10 things that helped me survive the first year of bereavement might not work for you. It’s just like everything in life, there is a lot of comparison that goes on. From the inside of grief, I found I was comparing how I felt or my processing to others. I often felt like I wasn’t grieving right, almost always too little or too much and from the outside it seemed I wasn’t ‘moving on’ quickly enough, none of which was helpful. Learning to ignore time frames, to feel what I needed to for as long or little needed, has been the most healing of things. Remember where there is everlasting love there will be a grief that knows no time limit.
3. Seeing a little joy in each day
When I lost my twins I felt plunged into a darkness, at times it even felt deeper than what I had felt when I lost my daughter (not that losses are comparable), and still I feel on those heavy grief days. At the time I knew it was a normal part of grief, but it was the complete opposite to who I had been before, which ate me up. I became focused only on the negatives and am still, a year on, working on it. However, what started that for me was the legacy of a sweet boy called Aryan.
Connecting over Instagram
I connected with his Mum over Instagram following her late night posts, when neither of us could sleep, of her spark of joy from that day. Sometime it had been randomly hearing a song, a text from a friend or something overheard on the tube. However small, she always posted, and slowly I began to pause and think of what had been my own little bit of joy for the day. For me, watching the sun rise always brings a little spark of joy. At first it was incredibly difficult to savour the little moments without guilt or fear that the next day there wouldn’t be one. With time it has got easier but I don’t think after child loss you do go back to being the same joy filled innocent person you were before.
4. Taking a little time out
Grieving is hard and so is negotiating life after loss, at first it felt overwhelming and I started going to the beach for just an hour a week. I found it was calming, it gave me time to process, to wonder and if I didn’t have time to go to the beach I would go for a quick walk alone. I know it is one of those grief clichés but I did and still do find it helpful.
5. Give up on trying to understand grief
Simply it is impossible, it is too unpredictable, it is a waste of time, a distraction to grieving and a waste of energy. The grief of losing a child is permanent and when you lose a child you lose your child at every stage of their life, making grief ever changing. Let it go and learn to follow it one wave at a time.
6. Do what you need to do without apologies
I have always been scared of putting on people, or cancelling plans or talking openly about my grief in case it upset someone else, but with time I have learnt that if you have the right people around you these things don’t matter and they understand. But this year has also taught me that it is important to let yourself feel whatever you need to whatever it interferes with, but not to hold on to this grief (for this I use Sarah Millican’s 11am rule). Whatever it is by the following 11am I have to let it go. I think the biggest thing I have learned about living on as a bereaved parent is whatever you need is okay and if you need to get through the day second by second or cuppa by cuppa there’s nothing wrong with that.
7. Say their names
The next thing that helped me survive the first year of bereavement. At first I was frightened to say them, scared I couldn’t or that no one would remember to say them back and as a young parent I felt most of the time there wasn’t the opportunity to say them. So I didn’t say them. I talked about losing babies but I would never share their names, then one day I did. I’ll never forget the smile on the face of the first person I told. I felt empowered as a parent and the things I was scared of didn’t matter. As long as now and forever even if I am the only one saying their names, it doesn’t matter. They are my children and saying their name helps me and it helps me feel like they have left some mark on this world.
8. Let hope find you
In many situations of life hope is the hardest thing to hold on to. Ever since my daughter died in 2016, I have spent countless hours fearing the future, feeling hopeless. And no matter what anyone has said about what the future holds, nothing, still feeling hopeless. Then after losing my twins, another loss, my hope for the future disappeared. My biggest fear is that I will never be anything other than a bereaved parent. It is difficult to know how to find hope for the future when your innocence around pregnancy no longer exists. It pushed me into looking for hope everywhere and then slowly I stopped and since, a different hope for the future has crept in.
9. Going away for a few days
I think for me this has been the most helpful to my grief. Sometimes all you need is to be somewhere different, to walk down a street without feeling like everyone knows your story. Sometimes the headspace that being somewhere different brings is all you need.
The last of 10 things that helped me survive the first year of bereavement. I feel as I have kept on going through my 10 points, they have got more and more cheesy. Maybe in this context it means they just are things that work. It’s not that I hate writing. It’s more I hate the connotations that come from saying you write about issues you are facing. I am really not a dear diary kind of woman, so for the longest time, I protested against writing about how I felt. I think I was worried about what it would feel like to stumble across years later.
Writing letters helped
I began talking about not knowing what to do on the days when I had something I wanted to tell my missing babies, but nowhere to go to say it, and I started properly writing them letters. This has really helped me look to the future because for all of the significant moments of my life since they died there is a little note somewhere that includes them and being able to read these back. It does help me on the days where grief makes me question if I have grown since the early days after they died.
I hope these 10 things that helped me survive the first year of bereavement have been helpful for you. If you are a regular follower of Little Lullaby you will also know I’ve turned my hand to blogging (I’m sorry). To take the first step to share your little family is daunting. But if just one person is comforted or reminded they are not alone by what I share then it is more than worthwhile. And now I am that person spouting about how helpful writing is when you find what works for you.
Airley, Freddy and Thomas’s Mummy
You can read and watch more blogs and vlogs from young parents on our website.
We upload new vlogs each week on our YouTube channel.