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Why You Don't Need to Protect Others From Your Grief After Losing a Child

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“I’m OK,” is the common answer to how are you after your child has died.

Because the stark truth isn’t easy, it often isn’t pretty and you don’t always want to put your feelings and emotions on display for everyone. At least I don’t.

So when you say, “I’m OK,” you are a bit taken back when you get asked, “Who are you trying to convince of that, yourself or everyone else?”

Because most of the time “I’m OK,” or “I’m good” satisfies people. They are OK accepting a half-truth that is pretty versus an honest, less than glamorous answer.

When I was asked that, my gut took over and I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. “I honestly don’t know, probably both myself and everyone else.” Until that moment, I never once stopped to think that once my son died, I not only stopped being open and honest with everyone, I tried to protect everyone else.

Because I was already damaged, I already had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and was grieving, they didn’t need to know all of the rough stuff. Funny how I was the one grieving, yet I was still the one trying to protect everyone else. Not telling all the details of how he died, not giving the cold, honest truth that he got so sick we were out of options. That yes, we chose to turn all the machines off and let our 1-month-old baby boy pass away. But the alternatives were ugly; they were cold and the doctors had no hope. So we tried to be compassionate, but for the longest time I shielded people from all of those things.

I want to be OK, but I want so badly to be able to tell someone how I really feel sometimes. But I am already damaged. Why on earth would I want to drag anyone else into it and possibly “mess them up” too? Grief is not pretty. Grief has many faces, and honestly grief sometimes means hurting yourself more trying to save others. At least, until recently, that is what I kept telling myself. Now I see the extra damage I have done in trying to save others.

So, a bit of advice for others who are grieving: just be.

Be hurt, be raw, be emotional, be angry, be sad, be however you have to be.

Just be and take care of you, otherwise you might damage yourself even more, and that is a rough road to go down.

Follow this journey on Grieving Alive

Originally published: August 10, 2016
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