Grieving – Our Own Way, In Our Own Time

“Am I EVER going to feel good again? Sometimes it seems like I am making progress and then it hits again…all of a sudden…the pain comes back stronger than ever. My feelings, thoughts and memories are all over the place. Is there a right way to do this?”


One of the most familiar ways that many people understand grief is from the work of Elisabeth Kubler Ross. Dr. Ross described grieving as a process that goes in stages.


We used to believe that everybody went through grief in a set order. We now know that the grief experience is unique to everyone and is not a working through process with a beginning and end, but is ongoing. One bereaved mom described her experience as “having to make peace with the fact that for the rest of her life she would experience the loss of her son in different ways at different times.”


Below you will find some of the other common thoughts that parents have after they lose a child.


“This can’t be happening!” Often the reality of what has happened does not quite sink in. It is your mind’s way of protecting you from a situation you are not quite able or ready to deal with emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. Be gentle with yourself, this is a process that takes time and the reality of your loss will come and go. Be careful not to compare yourself to others as they will also recognize the loss in their own way, in their own time.


“Why me? Why our family?” Anger can be directed towards individuals, deities, institutions, or ourselves. One way to help yourself through the anger is to express it in ways that are not harmful to you or others. This doesn’t just have to be done by talking to someone. For some it may be physical exercise, for others, journaling and for others yelling in the woods may help. Others try to ignore their emotions and the anger gets turned inwards, which often results in depression. When feeling extreme despair, some people may contemplate suicide. If you find yourself seriously thinking about suicide or harming yourself in any way please contact a professional to help you sort through these feelings.


“Maybe I didn’t make the right decisions, maybe we didn’t do enough!” Often people will second guess the decisions they made during their child’s illness . After the child dies, parents can go through the “woulda, coulda shoulda’s” and berate themselves for not doing enough. Please remember that you did the best you could at the time, with the information you had, under the circumstances you had to deal with at the time. As you struggle with these questions, keep that in mind.


In the next article, “A Kaleidoscope of Feelings” you will find a list of emotions you may be expressing. The purpose of these articles is to help you recognize some of the common ways people have described their experiences, so that you will not feel quite so alone.


As difficult as it is, what you are feeling is normal. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way.


It isn’t for the moment you are struck

That you need courage,

But for the long uphill battle to faith,

Sanity and security.

 Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Article contributed by Dr. Kate Eastman, Psy.D, LCSW and Dr. Elizabeth Samenfeld-Spect, MA, LCPC, LAMFT