Owning and honoring my grief over the past 7 years of holidays has been a struggle.
I've become close friends with many other parents of loss since my daughter's death, and we often commiserate among ourselves about the added weight of holiday expectations. We are not whining, we are acknowledging the pain to one another in order to take that next day with a measure of strength.
Part of the added weight comes from well-meaning family members and friends who simply can't comprehend the depth of a parent's grief, or don't know how to behave supportively. As a group, we mothers are grateful that others do not understand... because that would mean they'd have to suffer with us. None of us would want that, yet living with others' lack of comprehension often adds to our soul sickness.
I've noticed that even within the parents' group of grievers, mothers and fathers also seem to speak different languages. Dads gravitate to dads, moms to moms, stepparents to stepparents. We all seem to need time together in our particular parent corner - with others who understand the minutia of the experience.
Many of us parents have also grieved the loss of parents or siblings or friends - so we know the difference in depth of grieving. Though this may seem like a crude comparison to people who haven't lost a child, it's plainly true that child death exposes us to a level of hell that's deeper and more vicious than even Dante imagined.
At my first TCF group, two nights after my daughter died, I met my new club. I can still "see" the other parents in the room in my mind's eye. A mama who - like my daughter - had suffered a miscarriage, an elderly mama whose elderly son had died of an age related death, the dad my age whose son had died rushing to help someone else... they all understood me. Though no other parents that night had lost a child to suicide ~ they understood the ravaged state of my mind, heart, and soul.
And - I understood that since they were surviving then so could I.
I can't speak for anyone else, though for me early on it felt like my skin had been peeled off. I felt exposed to the elements. Light hurt my eyes. Sound made me want to scream. Food smelled worse than catshit. The only people I wanted to touch were my other kids and grandkids and my husband. Everyone else felt wrong.
There's not much to say about how to get through daily life right after your child dies. That seems more instinct than anything else. Nowadays, remembering that I am a mother who's grieving helps calm my worst days.
I live most days by the advice of other mamas of loss. (both in person and online) - I try to remember that trusting my heart is more reliable than trusting my mind. I find that staying near to people who are consistently loving - and kind - is essential to walking this grief journey with my sanity more-or-less intact.