Example after example keeps popping into my head about the similarities between the first year as a parent and the first year of grieving the loss of a loved one. Everyday something else pops up that speaks to the incredible newness of walking this journey. I feel stronger and gain comfort in remembering that I can survive the remaking of myself.
*Sleep when the baby sleeps and sleep any chance you can. Napping has always been one of my favorite things to do. This was one of my favorite pieces of wisdom shared with me as I became a parent. Any chance I got I would sleep when Kateri slept. There were lots of sweet, sweet naptimes with her and later my sons. Napping now any chance I get provides me an extra boost of energy to get through some long, challenging days. Even a quick 15 minute shutting of my eyes in my office at the farm can do wonders in reboosting me.
*Everything is marked in weeks and months. For at least the first year, time is marked by the 1 month anniversaries of events. In both situations, making it to the 1 year marker is a huge accomplishment. After that point, marking things becomes closer to marking in years rather than months. At least as a parent that was true and I imagine it will get easier to function in that way after this first year of grieving as well. Not that the dates are forgotten each month but rather they don’t hold the same power as in the first year of the journey.
*A new language must be learned. Words that had rarely been part of our vocabulary all of a sudden become something to be used and understood on a deeper, vastly different level.
*Weight goes on super easily and comes off not so easily. With this one clothes never quite fit the same way again. Our physical bodies shift and change in radical ways. Expecting them to go back to the way they used to be is really a futile endeavor. As with everything else about ourselves, our bodies are different and learning to live with these differences can take a lot of work.
*The smallest of accomplishments can be the greatest joy. Our child’s first smile, first hiccup, lifting her chest during belly time, first step, first word all are celebrated with huge enthusiasm in the first year of their lives. Showering in the morning, sleeping through the night, smiling more than crying in a day, looking at pictures without completely breaking down, all of these are huge accomplishments that should be celebrated when healing the loss of a loved one.
*Thoughts of your baby and thoughts of grieving your loss go with you everywhere. Even when trying to have a night out with friends, we can find our minds constantly going back to our baby or our loss. It never can just be set completely aside. Allowing ourselves to just play, breathe deeply and experience more of our lives is a great gift we can give to ourselves.
*Our friends and the conversations we have can radically change. We meet new people in the first years of these journeys. People who we used to spend lots of time with before don’t always cross over into this new journey with us. Things we used to talk about with ease can no longer seem important enough to hold our attention.
*There never seems to be enough sleep to feel rested. Even with lots of napping the bone deep weariness is an almost constant in the first year. I think it’s partly because there is so much interior work being done as who we are shifts, changes and settles into new understandings.
*Tears come easily. Enough said.
*Getting out of the house is a huge accomplishment. Sometimes it can take hours to just get out to the grocery store. The extra weight we now carry around, be it baby or our grieving, makes all tasks longer and harder to do. Each month into the first year gets a little easier as we become stronger and more used to the extra weight of things.
*Groups and large events are exhausting. The pull of energy from lots of people and activity can often seem like way too much to handle. It can take hours, and even days, to recover from one event.
*Trusting one’s instincts is both a big challenge and one of the most important things to do. People want to share their wisdom in how they survived the first year as a parent or the first year in grieving. Helping others survive this time can be a great way for others to strengthen their own knowing. While listening to others and taking in their wisdom can be a great way to make our own journeys easier, I believe it is also imperative to learn to trust that we know what is best for us and our own, very personal path.
*Will I ever get through this? Many a day I have asked myself this question in the past several months. And as I write dozens of instances of asking this same question the first year as a parent pop into my mind. The depth of feeling in this question often comes out with guttural cries. I have had lots of times I’ve wondered how I could possibly be strong enough to make it through. And then I come back to the deepest knowledge inside myself that quietly and forcefully says “Yes, you can! The only way through it is through it so just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will make it through.”
*Our journey is ours and ours alone. No matter who else maybe companioning us on the journey we are walking, it is still our own personal journey. We must walk it in the way and in the time that works for us. Not everyone will understand why we do what we do and that is okay. Staying true to ourselves and what we most need is the best thing we can do for ourselves.