“It’s ok to not be ok.”
I connected with a man on Instagram who recently lost his wife in a tragic accident. At the time of the accident, their little girl was 20 months old. He posts and writes a lot about his grief (@davegammie). I comment on his posts not to gain a follower or to make myself seen, I comment on his posts because I hope to help him with his and his daughter’s grief*, in any way I can. I know it’s not easy and helping others is something I have become passionate about. Grief and all things uncomfortable are easy for me to talk about. Grief is one thing, and then dealing with someone else’s grief or sadness is another; and then throw parenting with grief on top of that and it can be an overwhelming bundle of not a lot of joy, for some people.
Yesterday, he posted about being tongue-tied after his daughter asked him where her Mummy was and that she didn’t want her to die. He struggled a bit with his response, which made me have the urge I always get, to help him. In my experience, I found a simple way to help a child understand death was to tell the child that when someone’s body dies, their spirit keeps living, and is always with us. (After we lost our full term, baby before delivery, I felt I met my soul for the first time; my belief is that something that powerful and present can’t possibly die.) I suggested he try something that my kids loved and related to, after our losses. Follow those words with these words and actions:
Tell your child to hold her hand in front of her face (palm facing face),
and to blow on her hand. Then say, “Just because we can’t see our breath, doesn’t mean we can’t feel our breath.” Then you add, “Just because you can’t see Mummy, doesn’t mean you can’t feel her with us.”
I still remember the smiles and twinkle in my kids’ eyes after they would do this; sitting still for a minute or two just thinking about it and how you don’t need to physically see someone to feel their presence.
What I thought was brilliant, was his response back to me. He said that he would try the breath excersize with his daughter next time, because “it feels right”. That is a gift in itself, that he has the ability in his grief-stricken state, to know what is right, what is best for him, and to honour that. As low as he feels or as hard as his struggle still is, he is miles ahead of many for this knowledge alone, of listening to his body and doing only what feels right, for himself and his daughter.
I saw a grief psychologist after we lost our 3rd born, baby. She told me not to do anything without asking myself the question, “Is it good for me?”. Whether it was going to a person’s house with 3 kids for a weekend or holding someone’s newborn baby. Not to do it because I felt I had to or I should, but only to do it if it felt right. She told me to picture a paper stuck to my forehead, with those words written on it, “Is it good for me?”.
You might get reactions from others who don’t understand or support your decisions; but, in those moments of grief, don’t allow others to make it about them, it is about you and what you need. It’s ok to not be ok. If you want to eventually come out of your struggle – out of the darkness and into the light, stronger, well-rooted, living more and loving deeper, you have to listen to your instincts and honour what you need and put yourself first. No one can tell you how long that transition will take. Only you will know. It is your journey.
Trust your journey
*I was told that children under 6 do not grieve, they suffer a loss; however, I know my kids challenged that notion. I am in no position to judge whether his daughter is grieving or suffering a loss, but I used ‘grief’ when referring to her sadness for ease of writing purposes.