With Thanksgiving upon us and Christmas just around the corner many bereaved parents cringe at the expectations of their surroundings to be happy, grateful and merry.
Statements like „but there is so much to be grateful for“ or „focus on the living, not the dead“ has some of us want to go into hiding with our hands over our ears singing „Ladadee-ladadaa“ on repeat. Those seemingly true (cognitive) statements are emotionally barren. They are just emphasizing the opposite of what they are intending: further hurt and leaving the bereaved feeling completely misunderstood and lonely.
Family gatherings, which often turn out to be more stressful than happy, can accentuate those empty chairs at the table. Without intending to, those unaffected seem to be completely unaware of those deeply missed. They also often overlook the struggles the bereaved are going through to keep their facade matching the festivities. That’s where we need more empathy and foresight in being together. From both sides.
Grateful and grieving
But then, here is the conundrum:
Opposite states can live side by side, even if that seems paradoxical. In my case, raising a twinless twin I’m grateful for what I have and equally grieving for what is not my so desired reality: raising two girls.
The crux is that what often is seen as expected – and we are often expecting of ourselves the same – is the impossible: just feel grateful! But the missing cannot be suspended, the grieving isn’t on a timer to be turned on and off on demand.
I believe it starts with self-acceptance which goes hand in hand with self-care. I accept my ups and down. I take care of myself to make sure I’m not overextending myself and my energy. I don’t always succeed but I try. Self-care includes telling others where my boundaries are, whether they understand or not. And sometimes it means disappointing someone else to be true to yourself.