On this episode of the Real Happy Mom Podcast, I am talking to Megan about grieve and child loss. In particular, she is sharing her story and give us tips to help support a grieving mother
Megan is a mother of 5 and lives in Minnesota. Megan has been married to her husband for eight years and stays at home to homeschool her children.
When she was pregnant with her fourth child and 4 weeks from her due date, she went to check on her 15-month-old daughter, Aria and found her unresponsive.
I found her after she had passed away in the night. And so that began my road down grief and loss and trying to figure out how to live with a child who is gone.
This lead Megan down the road of grief and loss.
Grief is really a hard road and very crazy cause you don’t, they’re very foreign emotions and you don’t understand what’s going on in a lot of creative things happen to you that you don’t get.
As a result of finding Aria, Megan suffered from PTSD and anxiety. Then she gave birth to her daughter 4 weeks later.
How Megan was able to recover from heartbreak
I knew as soon as Arya died that I could not do this alone, that I needed help and I needed to seek help professionally and allow the people in my life to help me.
One thing that I know is we are a lot stronger than we actually think we are.
Even at Megan’s weakest moment, she shows incredible strength. She knew that she needed help and accepted the help of others.
Help from others is not just babysitting and casseroles, but also professional help from a therapist.
Through her first therapist, Megan found out that she had PTSD. She was then referred to another therapist for treatment for her PTSD using EMDR therapy.
EMDR is eye movement and desensitization reprocessing. EMDR is proven psychotherapy that helps individuals that suffer from trauma.
It’s a therapy that helps basically bring down the symptoms of PTSD from a really high, high level two aware where I am now today, which is about like maybe a two or three, like I still live with the trauma, but it’s definitely on a livable scale. Like I can manage day to day with it.
Megan had supportive friends and family members that allowed her to process all of the emotions that come with grief and to deal with it head-on.
I guess grief brings on so much crazy, crazy emotions and you feel really alone because you don’t know what’s going on with you. You can feel so many things that make you feel guilty or angry and you have no idea but like why or what’s happening or you’re going crazy.
Megan learned through her therapy and talking with other grieving moms that she was not alone and her feelings were actually normal.
All of those emotions are completely normal when dealing with grief.
It’s a hard, it never fully leaves. It will always be with me … I don’t want the grief to go away really because it is a reminder to me of my love for Aria and that I will never forget her.
How Megan supported her children
Megan’s children were four and two when Aria passed away.
Unfortunately, they saw Aria died and it was traumatic as anyone could imagine. As a result, the kids went through therapy as well.
There’s a thing called play therapy. So they just play with their therapist. And the therapist watches their behaviors and what comes up. And just kind of doesn’t really interfere a ton, but she watches and sees what’s going on because that’s how kids get out their trauma and grief is through play.
Megan’s kids were young at the time of Aria’s death.
Although they were young and experience trauma from their sister’s passing, Megan found that they are pretty resilient and bounced back rather quickly.
They would be like, oh yeah, Aria died and then they move on. Like the way they talk was like, it’s very hard sometimes as a parent to hear, but in the other way it’s, it’s a blessing that they don’t feel that extent of grief and pain that we do.
Although their grieve is not as extensive as Megan’s that is not to say that they don’t feel pain and grief. Or that they don’t suffer from trauma.
Megan mentioned that she notices that her older son that he has moments of fear when kids are sleeping.
The key that Megan has found is allowing her kids to process their feelings and then having an open conversation with them when they are ready.
We are open to talking about it, talking about her and talking about what happened. And I think the hardest thing we can do for them is to ignore it and to tell them to just like maybe get over it or not want to talk about it.
Megan mentions that kids at this age take on the burden and blame themselves. Even though they had nothing to do with what happened.
This is why it is so important to have open conversations to help your kids understand that it is not their fault in any way and they did nothing wrong.
But that sometimes that happens and we don’t know why or understand why, but to work through the emotions of that.
How was Megan able to find hope and light
Megan mentions 3 things that she needed to help her find hope.
With their support, she was able to work through her emotions and not feel scared to experience pain.
It is okay to feel all the emotions that come with grief. There will be emotions that you will feel that don’t make sense and that may even scare you.
When dealing with grief and loss it is so important to make sure that you don’t do this alone.
I think just being validated and all those emotions and thoughts and knowing that you’re not alone is super helpful and so facing all those emotions, I feel like now my waves of grief where when they were so close together and hit so hard, now they’re further apart and when they come, I know that I can get up again.
Ignoring how you feel doesn’t make the grief go away faster. There is no set time that has to go by before the waves of grief are not so close together. Everyone grieves differently.
Although you will probably experience grief the rest of your life it is still possible to have joy.
I know that it’s possible to have joy amidst the grief. It doesn’t mean the grief goes away, but that they can live together in the same life and I can still have a beautiful life.
One of the favorite things that Megan shared was this:
Like I know we all want to just be happy and only have good things, but those painful and hard moments are also beautiful in a way and when we can be raw and beautiful and vulnerable with ourselves and with other people, it creates such deeper connections.
How to do you support a grieving mother?
The biggest thing that Megan mentioned more than once is to understand that you can fix or change someone who is going through grief.
There is no fixing what happened.
As much as you would love to change the person’s situation or how they feel, you can’t.
So what can you do? Listen.
Listen to what they have to say without judgment.
Make sure to listen to what they are feeling and allow them to express themselves. Then validate them and even speak back what they are saying and tell them that it is hard.
Sometimes you have to talk about your story thousands of times. Like it might be many, many times that and other people might think, seriously, can you just like get over it? And you know what? It is hard. You can’t, you don’t just get over it.
Allow them to feel
Understand that there are a lot of feelings that come up like anger, confusion, depression, panic, anxiety, rage, hate, blame, and guilt.
Understand that these feelings can be scary for you and the griever. Know that these feelings are completely normal.
Avoid telling the griever that they shouldn’t feel those feelings. Instead, allow them to process these feelings and talk about how they are feeling without judgment.
So just being present and allowing them to express their emotions, checking in on them.
You can even offer to come and sit with the person grieving. Make sure to communicate and see if this is something that will help them.
The best advice that Megan gave if you really don’t know what to say or do, try saying this:
I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what to say because I don’t want to say their own thing. And I know you’re in a lot of pain and I just want to be here for you. I care for you and can I just sit with you?
Things to avoid doing and saying to someone who is grieving
After asking Megan what things to avoid saying to a grieving mother, she was very clear that everyone is different.
What is offensive to one person may not bother another person.
Megan did give a few things that I wanted to share with you so that you how to support a grieving mother.
Let me know
Avoid saying “if there is anything that I can do let me know.”
As a grieving mom, your brain is so in a fog and fried that you can’t even think of what, what do you need? It’s hard to even come up with something if you can think of something that you yourself can give freely.
When Megan mentioned giving freely, you could tell she was reminded of a certain or circumstance where someone was not giving freely.
Instead, the person supporting didn’t truly want to help and it was noticed.
It’s really difficult to take something from somebody that they’re not giving freely. Like when you’re on the receiving end of helping guests, it’s already hard enough to be getting so much help. And then when somebody, you can tell that they don’t really want to help, it’s, it’s hard.
So give from your heart. And give freely. This really shows you support a grieving mother.
Megan even suggests coming up with a few ideas of how you can help that works with your time and budget to support the griever.
For instance, you can suggest bringing dinner on Tuesday or babysitting the kids on Friday after work for a few hours.
Then say let me know which one works best for you.
Also, avoid saying at least. For example, at least you got to have 4 years with your son before he died.
This is not a good thing. And definitely not something a griever wants to hear.
For my spiritual friends, avoid saying “God knows what is best.” Or “God needed her more than you.”
And I think as a mom it’s really hard to hear that because it, you feel like there’s no better place than for your child to be with you. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t believe that at some point, you know, eventually maybe you can come to terms or believe that again. But all those things that are meant to be supportive, they don’t really help in that moment of really dark despair.
When someone is grieving it can be scary. And your instinct may be to avoid the individual. But don’t do that.
And I think that’s one of the worst things you can do is do nothing. Because when you’re in this really, really dark place in the moment that you need the support and friends the most than people tend to run away because they’re too scared and nervous and they don’t know how to deal with grief and their feel awkward and this person, this mother who has lost her child needs that support the most right now. Don’t be afraid to do the wrong thing.
Megan reminds us that we all make mistakes. So don’t be afraid to say the wrong thing to the person that is grieving.
Don’t disappear. Your love and support are needed now more than ever.
All of us will grieve in some way. Not all of us will lose our child or children, but all of us will have grief in our life and so if we can learn about it and know how to face it and it’s an important topic.