Baby steps on the road to recovery after loss

Baby steps to recovery

Baby steps. The concept resonates. Do one small thing. Then another.

Brush your hair. Put bread and cheese on the table. Water the plants. Rest often. Talk. Cry. Find a comfortable space to be. Fold the washing. Put the socks in drawers and fresh sheets on the bed. Take care of yourself. Ask for comfort. Comfort those who need you.

Bereavement and grief touch all our lives. No one is exempt. We lose people, pets, places. Some lose their health, jobs and security. As we age we lose friends, our strength and our place in the world.

Because loss and grief are universal, strangers as well as those who love us understand our pain, although not its unique flavour. That’s why we can ask for any help we need.

Accept their time and gifts. Be grateful. Nothing else is needed. If people feel awkward around your sadness, let them go, at least for now.

Old people understand grief well. We’ve had our share of losses and pain and they’ve become familiar territory. We know the terrain is rugged. Slowly, we remember how we’ve been here before and survived. We hope we’ll get through it…one more time.

I’ve written other posts about grief. You can read one here: ‘Loss of a baby‘ and recently, here: ‘Alert: tragic news‘.

The pain wears us down. Energy dissipates and we think we may not recover. We sleep poorly, dream too much, eat too much or not enough. Age catches up with us, takes our breath and sucks our life. Getting up each day takes effort. Pain threatens to engulf our being.

Wisdom reminds us, ‘This too shall pass‘.

Grief as a journey made up of baby steps

The grief-journey paces itself and can’t be hurried. Yet each time, we grow impatient to get our lives ‘back to normal’. The concept is absurd. With each loss, the old normal disappears. We can only hope that some new, stable state will one day replace that old awareness.

For a time, we feel stuck between unfamiliar rocks and want to move on. Gently does it! We remind ourselves to take those baby steps. Place one foot after the other. This is not a race but a long, tiresome journey. One painful minute, one painful day after the next.

Until, one day…

It’s three months since my daughter, Anne, died tragically, alone. My first waking thought is no longer about loss and pain. Nightmares and dreams of what-might-have-been have (mostly) receded. The question, ‘Why did it happen?’ has become less incessant.

Painful memories and bitter tears sometimes surprise, but don’t overwhelm me as they did before. Missing her is almost bearable, although I still long for her friendship and love. Reminders of her presence are everywhere.

Easter, her birthday, Christmas are hurdles to be faced. I dread them.

But I’m surprised the sky’s turned blue and a bird sings. I look forward to future events, write blog posts, enjoy the company of family and friends. Life became ‘more normal’ when I stopped looking for answers and miracles.

As a dear friend says,

‘Eventually, we just get on with things.’

Help after bereavement

If you need help after the loss of a loved one, talk to a friend, a pastor or your general practitioner. As well, there are many helpful counselling services available.

In Australia, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 for immediate assistance.

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31 Comments

  1. A moving post, Maureen. Thank you for sharing some of your journey. I like how you say we must allow the path of grief to unfold in its own time and way for each of us. Much love.

    1. Dear Susan, thank you for your comment and for writing about the path of grief and your love. Looking forward to seeing you soon xx

  2. Dear Maureen,
    It seems so like you (from what I know) to be giving out helpful advice and gentle kindness for others, even as you’re still dealing with such a monumental loss. You’re amazing.
    I’m so glad to hear your pain has eased a little, and that you’re able to enjoy simple pleasures, even though I know you’ll never stop missing Anne.
    Sending you hugs and wishing you many small comforts every day.
    xx

    1. Dear Fiona, Thank you for your kind comments and the hugs and kind wishes. It surprises me how much love and support has surrounded me and my family in these past three months, and how comforted I feel and how supported by people like you. xx

    1. Dear Sonia, I am so sorry for your loss. I commented on Facebook, but it is good to be in contact with you. Thank you for your comment. Take great care of yourself at this sad time. xx

  3. Losing Anne in the way you did must be harder to come to terms with than any other loss, so many emotions and unanswered questions, that said, I am glad that you are feeling a little better,

    I am so sorry about the loss of Paul – losing a baby is heartbreaking enough without being treated in such an appalling way, how awful for you.

    1. Dear Sue, Thank you. Yes, death by suicide brings all sorts of complications and unexpected negative thoughts and pain. Anne suffered from a significant mental illness, compounded by physical illness which led to the loss of her job as a teacher. That in turn led to poverty, insecure housing, and a raft of other problems. As well as that, she was a delightful companion and my friend whom I loved dearly. I am grateful that she is at last at peace, in spite of the pain we her family suffer.

      Paul’s death, and Patrick’s (who died of SIDS when he was thirteen weeks old, were relatively simple!

        1. Thank you, dear Sue. Getting on with things, but without much enthusiasm. That will come later.

  4. What a terrible loss for you to have to go through. I am gla d that you are getting some lighter moments. The amazing thing about loss and grief is that it does ease, but never goes away. But life and living are stronger, even though we can sink back, living will always be strong. Life. Is a strange business and I marvel at what people can overcome and go on.
    Thank you for sharing this .

    1. Hello, Anne. Thank you for your kind comments. I guess the older I get the more aware I am that grief and loss can be almost constant companions, but that the pain that seems as if it will overwhelm gradually subsides and gentle memories and a sort of peace take its place. Thank you for your kindness

  5. Dearest Friend – life does, indeed, present us with lots of doors to open, many paths to cross, numerous mountains to climb. Thank you for sharing some of yours with us as well as the wisdom your climbs have bestowed upon you. Love having you as my friend. Am thinking of you this Easter time.

    1. Thank you Elizabeth B. We have shared so many of life’s curled balls together. Long may our friendship continue! Blessings at Eastertime!

  6. Said with such grace, Maureen. My thoughts are with you. It’s one of my all time favourite mantras: “This too will pass.” And yes, over time, the acute nature of pain does dissipate, but boy can it pack a punch! Much love.

    1. Thank you for your love and kindness, Julie. I know, and keep reminding myself, ‘This too will pass’. Slowly, thank goodness, the horror and the pain are receding. I feel as if I’ve been battered by a cyclone, but am now recovering.

  7. Dear Maureen. I am so sorry for your loss of your daughter and grandchild. Thank you for this sharing of your journey.I know how painful it must be. In August this year it will be 10 years since the death of my only daughter, a brave and beautiful woman, who died after battling a long illness three months short of her 40th birthday. Not a day goes by without a special memory of her.

    1. Dear Christine, Thank you for your condolences and kind thoughts. My daughter died in December, and I think you may be referring to my baby son who died in 1964, not a grandchild. I did not know about the death of your daughter in the prime of her life. How painful and sad is the death of our children. As I said somewhere else, it is against the natural order of things for us to bury our children. Those of us who do so share a special bond that only we can fully understand. Maureen xx

  8. Beautifully written dear Maureen and very moving . Your raw honesty is both refreshing and centering. Warm thoughts. XKaren

    1. How lovely to hear from you, Karen. Thank you for your comment and kind wishes. I still have, and use, a beautiful notebook you gave me for my birthday in 2001. It includes an inscription in your beautiful caligraphy. I use it each year to record my goals and if I achieved them! Mxx

    1. Dear Michell, thank you for your kind words and the blessing. Maureen xx

  9. HI Maureen I have wanted to find a quiet time to read this Blog Post. It is such an important post. I wanted to read it when I could really give your thoughts, love and recent struggle the time and thought that it deserved. It’s such an important topic because as you mentioned, this struggle will touch us all and has touched many of us already. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for the generous way you have talked about your recent loss and all that you have felt. It helps us to share your pain, to understand the journey you have traveled and reminds us to continue to be there any time you need. Its so lovely that you have found little corners of peace. I hope that keeps growing and send my love to you and your family. Tricia

    1. Dear Tricia, thank you for taking time to read my post. I feel very honoured that you have taken it so seriously. Grief, mourning, loss are important topics not only because they touch every single life, even for young children. But also, because I understand that they are the vehicle through which many of us grow, emotionally and spiritually.

      Thank you for sharing my recent pain over the past few months. Thank you for your love.

  10. My deepest and profound condolences go out to you. Maureen. When a person suffers such losses friends try their best to persuade us to realign our thinking. It is a noble attempt but the sting of loss (especially tragic ones) and the emotions and heartaches it produces can only be appreciated by the person him or herself. God bless you and keep you safe.

    1. Dear Gerry, thank you very much for your kind remarks and understanding of the processes of loss and grief. Thank you also for your blessings. Mx

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