As a bereaved parent there will be days months, times when you feel like you just can’t go on. When Mike died on 11/27/2016 in the first year it was the 27th of each month. You find that you count months since they died in much the same way you counted months they were alive. It’s been 2 months, 11 months, 18 months and then one day you find you count in years. You aren’t quite sure how you survived or how you went from 1 month to 5 years. And you aren’t quite sure how you survived any of it.
We all have those tough days, weeks, months. For me the month is November. You will be doing ok one day and then you turn a page and see a date written down or see a photo and your breath catches and you can’t breath. There will be many triggers and you will have One of “those days”. I call them “Mike days”. Those days when you want to curl up in bed and not get up. There will be those days when You think you can’t possibly live another day without your child. Yet we do go on and we continue to breath and to live.
On those days, you get to decide how you think, act, feel and react. You can choose to say “no” to invitations from friends. You can choose those days to do some self care and some self love and be gentle with yourself. Take some extra time to reflect quietly on the life of your child. Remember those times that made you smile and made you happy to be their mother. You can choose to do something that will honor your child’s memory. You can choose to call a friend and talk or sit quietly by yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to make it through those days. How you choose to honor and remember your child is totally up to you. Each year in the month of November I try to think of a way to live that honors my child. One year I wrote a story every day for the month to share Mike’s life with the world. One year I collected money and food and gave Thanksgiving dinner to 14 families. One year I did random act of kindness in Mike’s memory. There is no right or wrong way to do any of it. You get to decide.
On the days that are challenging and you don’t have the energy or stamina to get out of bed and get dressed to face the day I want you to remember that you are loved and you are valuable. Find some small act of self care and self love and do it. It might mean you get out of bed and wash your face and brush your teeth. Try to do something for yourself that looks like love to you. It might mean you go for a walk, or eat healthy foods. Celebrate the little things you were able to accomplish.
I find keeping a journal helps me. It gets all the thoughts that keep running through my head out of my head and on to paper. I can look at myself and my journey and see the progress I am making. Don’t make the mistake of comparing your journey to anyone else’s. Yours is uniquely yours. Your journey will be different than anyone else’s journey. Resist the urge to compare your life to any one else’s life. You are unique and wonderful.
As we approach the holiday season, remember to take some extra time and be gentle with yourself. Do the parts you think you can do. Just because “we’ve always done it that way” doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. You will know what is worth keeping and what you emotionally can’t do right now. Take time to evaluate and reassess. You might enjoy being with family and friends and letting them support you. You might need time alone, and there isn’t one right or wrong way to do holidays. The people who love and support you will totally understand and love you no matter what. I wish for you all a peaceful holiday season.