Thursday, September 2, 2010

What is the appropriate amount of time to grieve?

Yesterday I read a blog about grief after child loss.  It was an interesting article and it made me wonder about my opinions on grief.  I must tell you before you read on, this lady hasn't had to bury her child.......thankfully.  The blog mentioned...."everyone I've interviewed about losing a child agrees, it takes five years....and.... recovery from the loss of a child is a five year process."  That's right, after FIVE years, if I am to believe her, I should be through the worst of my grief over Savannah!

As soon as I read it, the hair on the back of my neck prickled.  I'm afraid I have to disagree.  I thought to myself, "Well I must be abnormal!"  In spite of grief is still there, like an unwanted guest who arrives unannounced.

Its six years since Savannah died, almost ten this month since my sister was killed and it'll be eight years in November since my beautiful mom passed away, the grief from all of these losses still affects me.  In my experiences, grief doesn't have a time limit, and neither should it. 

Grief is defined in the dictionary as "keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret."  And that's what it is, mental suffering, torture sometimes, a physical pain......some days I wish so much that I could take Savannah shopping, or watch her and Dempsey play...or fight together.  It's distress that we searched the world for a cure for her but couldn't save her life and a sharp sorrow that I can't simply kiss my child goodnight anymore.  It's also a painful regret that I should've taken her to more places and made her days more special....and taken more photos of her and her sister together.  How can there possibly be a time frame to when I will no longer feel these things for my beautiful girl who is no longer here!  No, grief can last a lifetime, in my opinion. 

How do you define grief anyway?  Especially over the loss of a partner, parent, sibling, friend, or god forbid, a child.  I think its irresponsible of anyone to say you should be healed or that your grief goes away.  I think everyone's grief is different and we shouldn't tell people HOW or WHAT they should be feeling after any length of time.  Grief is like an amputation of a limb, although other people can't see where the limb is grieve for that loss every single day.

The relationship you had with the person who died will sometimes define how intense or how long the intensity lasts.  I think the person who wrote the blog should've said that the intensity of grief changes over time (not put a limit on it).  Just because someone isn't crying everyday or finding they can laugh again doesn't mean they have moved on (hate that saying) or have recovered from a death.  I don't think you ever recover, you just learn to incorporate your loss into the new person you become......I know that to be the case with me.

I don't usually like confrontations so I commented on this lady's blog, however, wrote a comment not to upset her.  What I should've written is that I think that particular article was a load of crap and it worries me that some people may read what she wrote and think there is something wrong with them if they still feel a deep sadness over a loss, yes, even after FIVE years!

My cousin Heather grieves terribly for her son who died eight years ago this month.  He left behind two beautiful little girls and a young wife.  Heather not only grieves for him but for his children who no longer have a daddy.  At a party a few years ago, one of her relations cornered me and asked "So Diana, you've been through so much loss and you seem to be doing OK....why can't Heather move on from Paul's death?"  I again held back from saying what I really wanted to say....instead I tried to put it in a way that she could relate to as she hasn't lost a child. 

  My cousin Heather and her son Paul who passed away at 32.

I told her with a smile, "Do you think Heather wakes every day and chooses to be sad?  Do you think she wants to feel the way she does all the time?"  No, its more like she can't help the way she feels, its called GRIEF and as far as I can see there is no miracle band aid you can stick on to cure it, more like the band aid gets ripped off sometimes, revealing your wound that simply doesn't heal.  There is no magical timer that 'dings' when a certain amount of days...or years, has passed to say when that overwhelming feeling of sadness goes away.  That your child or a loved one isn't here to share your life ever again. 

Yes, you do learn to laugh and enjoy life again and time can sometimes be a buffer against that profound crushing pain you feel in the beginning......but the grief is always simmering below the surface. 

It's doing things like NOT putting time limits on yourself and honoring your grief that eases the sorrow a little and allows you to heal so that intense pain turns into an ache.

For me, life is richer than before as I've had  the gift of doesn't mean however that I am over the death of Savannah...or my sister....or Mom!  I don't think I ever will be.  I will miss them and think of them every day until I die.....or maybe like I said, I'm abnormal!

         Dempsey on her 1st day back....

Monday was Dempsey's first day of third grade and as I stood at the side of the playground and took photos of her, I couldn't help but be swept up by all the kids rushing around me, with their shiny new backpacks and chatter about their vacations, swept up too with a longing for Savannah, who would be going into sixth grade, her last year at elementary school. 

As I looked around at all the other girls her age, dressed in the tulle skirts and trendy runners...I wondered what Savannah would've chosen to wear, and how excited she'd be to see her friends.  It is the first year I didn't cry amongst the chaos......maybe this means my five years are up...the timer has buzzed....and I'm over the death of my child.  If only wishes were pennies! x



  1. Five years? Seriously? This blogger has obviously not had to bury a child. I don't have children, but I was a pediatric oncology nurse for 15 years and a lot of "my" children died. I am so fortunate to have a friend in one of my angel's moms. My friendship has enlightened me into what really happens after a child dies. It is so much more than going to the funeral and sending a card for the child's birthday and anniversary. My heart truly goes out to bereaved parents and it doesn't matter if the baby died in utero or if the child was an adult child. Grief after a child has died is a personal experience. It changes "normal" into a new normal that will never be exactly the same as it used to be. I applaud you for sharing your real experience in a public forum. Thank you.

  2. Dear B,
    Thank you for leaving your great comment. You must be a very very special person if you worked in ped oncology. I imagine you have experienced alot of grief.

    Savannah had an amazing nurse that came into our home everyday and became part of our family...also a hospice nurse who touched our lives...we are still in contact with them today as they shared such a profound experience with us, something I will never forget. You are very special people and will never know how much strength and support you give the families when nursing a sick child...thank you!

    You are also so right about grief being a personal experience, there are no rules unfortunately!

    with much appreciation
    Diana x

  3. Diana, you already know that placing a time limit on grief is ridiculous. Does anyone seriously believe that after x number of years, an amputee would stop missing a part of his body that had been amputated? The Savannah-shaped hole in your heart will be there as long as your heart is beating inside of you, and anyone who has suffered the death of a child understands this. I'm glad you had the courage to leave a comment on this person's blog. ♥

  4. Marty,
    Thank you as always for re-inforcing what I THOUGHT I already knew. And I know that you understand as you've been there too...and are an expert in this field.

    Your words about my Savannah shaped hole is so true and so beautifully put....thank you xx

    Oh and btw I did have the courage to leave a comment, two actually and she corrected part of what she said but didn't change the article. Oh well.....

    Love to you Marty and thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate your thoughts.
    Diana x

  5. Even me, the other gender, is affected by your written words, thanks Dee, wish I could even say what you write to others. I don't want to be treated differently, I have foot-in-mouth disease myself, but as long as others are sensitive at least, and ignore my blasé public face.

  6. Tone,
    Thank you for your comment from a male widower and uncles point of view.

    I know it's sometimes difficult to express how we feel. And I know what you mean about not being treated differently....we don't want to be known as victims but as survivors and only really want support...or a hug or an ear once in a while. :)

    Sending a hug to you and Alexander, Fraser, Emerald and Charlotte....they are lucky to have such a great dad, blase or not! :)
    Love you all so much

  7. This was powerful Diana. Thank you!

  8. Thanks Crystal for leaving your comment....I hope the article helped you or brought you some comfort to know you aren't alone.

    Sending a hug to you all.
    Dee x

  9. I couldn't agree with you more, Diana. I've never really understood the idea that grieving should "end." Yes, the intensity changes over time, and acute grief is quite different from those pangs of loss and sadness that can wash over you at unexpected moments years later.

    I do believe, however, that time is not the only thing that heals and that people can make choices to embrace life once again, while still acknowledging the loss and its impact. You, Diana have done this beautifully and naturally, but some people need more guidance on the journey.

    Everyone grieves differently -- I saw that crystal clearly with my parents after my brother died -- and timelines definitely can't be dictated. But, I must say, I would be concerned about your dear cousin if she is still in a deep grief state after 8 years. In the work I do with my grief coaching clients, my clients do deep work to help shift them out of that stuck place, to a place where they can enjoy their lives while still honoring the memory of the person they loved.

    We are the sum of our experiences, and I believe that peace comes, at least partially, from the successful integration of those past experiences into our current beings.


  10. Thanks Michelle for your insightful comment!

    You put it perfectly in your words, especially about choices, something I believe in whole heartedly.

    I've been enjoying reading your thoughts on 'life.'

    Thank you again for sharing your experience here.
    Diana x

  11. You are absolutely amazing, thank you so much for sharing...Diana, you know I can and will never forget all of my experience with meeting you and your family, today as I read your blogs I cry, I cry for the sweet beautiful child Savvy was, I cry for that day she was taken, I will not express any of that here, as it seems so private, so intimate, but I will say as i have always felt, you are the most incredible, strong woman I know, and whoever is reading your blogs who have any issues with grief may they find some peace in what you have been through and how you continue to choose to live your life...Savvy, your mother and sister would not have it any other way..I love you from the bottom of my heart and you have profoundly changed my life....

  12. Julie,
    Thank you!

    I couldn't have asked for a more loving, compassionate, supportive, committed and fun nurse for Savannah.

    I will always love you and be grateful for your beautiful care you took of our daughter in her final days. I think you are special, so special and I think you came into our lives and Savannah's for a reason. I will never forget the comfort you gave me.

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving your beautiful words. I know through what we went through we will always be part of each others lives.

    Diana x

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