Updated: Sep 6, 2021
On my drive home from a quick trip to Waco today, I felt called to share a few tips I’ve learned over the past 2 years without our perfect Finn Benton. Things I wish I had read in the early days of raw pain.
All grief journeys are different (See tip 1), so if something on here does not resonate with you, you are not wrong, I am not wrong, we are just as God created us, different. But I do hope that you find some of these beneficial. We will all endure our own hardest battle, none the same, but our own hard nonetheless; and although I could pray you never need these tips, God does not promise a pain free life, but He promises to remain by your side through it all. Whenever you find yourself in the thick of the battle, I hope my words weave hope into your heart.
Everyone grieves differently.
Never pass judgement on someone else or YOURSELF. I used to guilt myself for not having a stronger reaction at Finn's resting place. “I must be an awful mother for not clawing the ground and convulsing in tears.“ That guilt kept me from going many times. 2 years later, and I've finally allowed myself to feel whatever the heck I'm feeling without expectation. I have now discovered that my reactions are more to do with my ability to anticipate the pain. When something catches me off guard, it's way more likely to cause pain than something, like his gravesite, where I know what to expect. There is no correct way to grieve, to act, and no action will take away or add to your love for that person.
2. Grief is not linear.
You hear this a lot when you're in the thick of it, but this is my takeaway on this one. If a day comes when you can breathe a little easier and smiles aren't as forced, relish it. Do not guilt yourself for feeling okay or even happy. Because tomorrow might bring the tidal wave, and you'll wish you'd taken a breath when you could.
3. Not everyone will make it through the storm with you.
For a long time, I was determined to continue relationships that were hindering mine and my family's ability to heal. Relationships that took the focus off our own pain and healing and put our energy elsewhere. Once I realized that letting go didn't mean I was an unforgiving, unGodly woman, but that I could move forward in prayer for them while not engaging in a relationship that only brought pain and stress.
4. Take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time.
Again, something you'll likely hear a lot when you're in the fresh days of grief, but here's how I put this into action. I would pray to God each morning, asking for my daily bread - my daily bread? Strength. "God, please give me just enough strength to make it to lunch today - carry me, God." Then at lunch, I'd ask Him again. "Just enough, God." Until I was able to carry the strength longer intervals at a time. This helped refocus my thoughts from years of despair without Finn to the strength God would give me until my next check point with him.
I originally typed, by any means necessary, but within reason, get sleep. My cousin, who walked me through my toughest days with grief having experienced child loss herself (love you, sweet Greyson) urged me to get sleep. She expressed that sleep would make things a little better. And in the dark days of grief, a little better moved me from suicidal thoughts, to an attempt to live again.
6. Self care is not selfish.
Force yourself out of bed, put on a little makeup, and get overdressed for a trip to Target or to get your nails done and just TRY. Fake it - and eventually, you'll make it. I am sure there's some sort of scientific explanation to the saying look good, feel good that I'm missing here - but really, it makes a difference.
7. Find an outlet.
Writing and this blog became mine. I have met the most incredible women along this journey and here's just a few of the beautiful outlets I have watched them discover: starting a foundation, fundraising for a charitable cause, volunteering, painting, beginning a business, going back to school, working out - and so, so, much more. But also, it's so overwhelming at the beginning to see the incredible ways other honor their loved ones. Remember that the way you honor them is for you. They know your love whether it's through a private journal that no one knows about, or a foundation that raised a record breaking amount.
Find others who have walked a similar path as you. Hashtags are a great way to connect on social media. Look for local support groups - for child loss, look into The Compassionate Friends group.
And do not give up until you find the right fit. It took me 3 tries before I walked in fidgeting and immediately crying to a counselor who would tear up with me as I remembered all the beautiful moments with Finn. A judgement free zone to feel your way through it all. She also helped me recognize when I was being irrational in self-blame or guilt for something I could not have possibly controlled. I credit our counselor for so much of my healing. I still find myself remembering things she would tell me when I begin to spiral. She gave me the tools needed to manage the waves of grief.
10. Believe Him.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11.
Your life will never be the same. But one day, I pray you live the promise in that verse like I do everyday.