I unfortunately get emails from people every day telling me about the death of a child. I say unfortunately because it’s just awful to know another child is gone and that people are missing him or her terribly. My heart just breaks. I was once that parent writing pleading emails to other grieving mothers, hoping that they would have the magic words to guide me through my pain. Hell, I still send those emails to mamas farther along on this “journey.”

I know how hard it can be to send those emails. It can take up an entire day’s energy trying to put those horrible, indescribable emotions into words. I remember being up at 3am, desperately scouring the internet for words written by someone who’d been in my position of fresh grief.

If you are lost, if you are hurting, if you are struggling to get through one more moment, here is my advice to you:

  • Eat everything, or eat nothing.
  • Be sure to drink water.
  • Don’t take on more than you can handle. This might mean you do nothing. That’s OK.
  • If you need to, take each day second by second.
  • You’ll feel lonely, even when you’re surrounded by people. This is normal.
  • Lay in bed all day, or go for a run. Focus on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Don’t worry about what people think. No one expects anything from you, I promise.
  • Some people may minimize your grief. They do this for one of two reasons. The first is that they don’t understand what you’re going through and are accidentally hurtful. The second is that they themselves are suffering, and by putting down your grief they somehow feel better. Forgive the first people, forget the second.
  • Don’t kill yourself. You may want to die, but killing yourself minimizes the life of your loved one.
  • Rejoin the world when you’re ready. It will always be there. You won’t understand how the world can possibly keep turning without your loved one. I don’t understand it, either.
  • You’ll have survivor’s guilt.
  • It’s OK to laugh. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to not cry. It’s OK to have moments of happiness.
  • Resist participating in the grief olympics. Your grief is worse, because it is yours. Their grief is worse, because it is theirs. There are no winners.
  • Don’t worry about returning phone calls, or texts, or emails, or thank you notes, or smoke signals. Everyone understands.
  • You’ll wish for your “old” life. You’ll desperately want to be the person you were “before.” You can’t be. It sucks (understatement).
  • If someone tells you to call them anytime, put their number in your phone. And if you want to call that person at 2am, do it.
  • There is NO wrong way to get through. And even saying “get through” is wrong, because it’s not something you go through and then you’re done. You’ll grieve your whole life. But you WILL learn how to function again, sort of like how amputees learn how to maneuver without  their missing limbs.

Take this entire list with a grain of salt. No one can tell you how to grieve, even people who are grieving (exception: please don’t kill yourself).

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