Grief is “deep sadness or sorrow” caused by a loss. The sadness and sorrow come from the severed connection. When we lose someone we can’t finish the conversation or resolve the disagreement. Often things are left unasked, unsaid, or unanswered.
Even when all the things are said and the parting is sweet, there is deep sadness because the chance to start a new conversation or simply being in the presence of one another isn’t possible.
Although it still hurts, we expect to face the loss of our grandparents, parents and others of an older generation. Likewise, we aren’t sure how it’ll shake out, but we know the possibility of out living our significant other, siblings, and other contemporaries is real. What parents don’t anticipate is giving up the presence of their children.
When a child comes along, parents figure on being stuck with their child, for better or worse, for the remainder of their lives. Parents plan on being the ones to make the permanent exit. Living without their children feels unnatural and just plain wrong to grieving parents.
The disconnect between the past and the present, fearing guilt or anger, can be powerful blocks to growth. Chances are there are plenty of good memories, but because we are humans having a complex human experience, there are also dark parts we’d rather avoid.
In order to fully step into the present, it’s important to come to terms with our past. Otherwise it remains a space to sidestep. It is dictating where we go by telling us where we can’t and won’t go. There is no way to live fully with areas that are more protected with fences, watchdogs, and guards than the notorious Area 51.
Re-establishing a connection with our children, including the child’s spirit in our present lives brings significant solace, relief, and a sense of permission to continue living.
Some parents naturally connect with their deceased children; others especially those whose children died very young or didn’t have the capacity to speak don’t see it as possible.
Today I want to lead you through two ways to communicate openly and honestly in order to start releasing some of the guilt, shame, and fear you may carry around living without your child. By letting yourself “go there”, you’ll feel the value of connecting with your child regardless of earthly limitations and how connecting with their spirit and honoring yourself and the past with self forgiveness. Doing this brings reconciliation and release to live in the present instead of being held by the past. It creates an opportunity for you to connect your truest self with your child and the memories you carry.
It is about being honest with yourself and your child. You have permission to explore all of your emotions, feelings, and memories. Doing this in a vulnerable way helps you see where without realizing it, you’ve brought old feelings and stories into your present moments. Today you’ll be diving into things in your past you’d maybe rather not think about, and the goal for the activity is two fold:
- Create a safe way to connect your true self with your child on all levels
- Reveal what you’ve been holding onto both the good and no longer useful
Materials: private room, candle, journal
I encourage you to go to a safe, secluded space where you’ll be uninterrupted for at least 30 minutes. Light a candle and turn on soft relaxing music if it’s helpful for you to have ambient noise.
If at all possible, I also strongly encourage you to build in some self-care and de-compression time afterwards. It’ll most likely bring up some fresh memories and emotions for you. Know and accept that you’ll probably come up with things you’ll be processing for awhile.
- Take 5 deep breaths
- Hold your hands to your heart and say,
“I commit to being honest with myself and (your child’s name) in this next 30 minutes. I know she/he is safe and protected and it’s okay for me to explore all of my emotions, feelings and memories.”
You will write a letter or dialogue to your child allowing what has been stored up inside to flow out. It’s a chance to re-connect and begin to unearth any of the things you’ve ignored, feel have been left unfinished, etc. You can do this by writing your child a letter. Of course you can write whatever you want, but here are subjects I’ve found useful to ensure you’re touching on multiple aspects:
- Consider the following:
- Thank your child for the blessings and lessons you’ve gained through your child
- Ask any questions that have been left unanswered
- Address any unresolved guilt you have – be as specific as possible about particular instances, feelings etc. (TODAY ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS ACKNOWLEDGE THESE AREAS. WE WILL FOCUS ON HEALING GUILT MORE LATER)
- Say whatever you have left unsaid
- Set your timer for 30 minutes and;
- Take out your journal and pen then write continuously without the pen leaving paper* until the alarm goes off. Start with Dear (your child’s name),….
*Sometimes people would rather type and while doing that is better than not doing the work, I encourage you to do it the old fashioned way because it forces you to slow down, while both stimulating and engaging the brain more effectively. The act of writing by hand increases the brain’s motor cortex, in a way that’s similar to meditation, which can feel therapeutic and help with mindfulness.
I “talk” with Alison frequently. Her presence in my life is subtle, yet it frees me to move forward, living a bold and fun life. Even though she loved the water, because of her tracheostomy, Alison couldn’t swim. When I’m in the line up on my surfboard and see a rainbow, I don’t feel guilty. I know Alison is smiling down, happy her mommy is playing in the water in ways she couldn’t.