As I grieved, the things that were the most unsettling were the loss of certainty and the inability to feel grounded and secure. I know now that this is common as part of the grieving process.
Prior to entering the NICU where my infant son lay, fighting for his life, I was a strong and confident woman. I was a successful sales professional. I was a wife who proudly cared for my husband, our finances and our home. I had a close circle of friends who counted on me and I had a family who loved coming to visit me in San Diego. I had created a life that was full of the certainty and predictability I craved. I felt confident and assured.
But as I began to grieve, who I saw myself to be shifted away from all that I knew. I didn’t see myself as the strong, confident woman I knew myself to be. Being okay with feeling vulnerable about an uncertain future was not a skill I had learned. At least not yet. I became the victim and I became the one that repeated over and over again, “I can’t believe this happened ”. I heard others say again and again, “I’m so sorry this happened to you”. I stated to tell myself, “This happened to me. I am the unlucky one who lost her son.” I started seeing myself as a victim; damaged, weak, and unsure of my uncertain future.
I didn’t like feeling unsettled and I didn’t like that I had lost my sense of feeling grounded. I didn’t like how vulnerable I felt. Just living became more than I could handle on my own. I was managing my life and my work, but I wasn’t managing my grief. My depression grew and being depressed became all that I knew. And as my psychiatrist explained to me how severely depressed I was, I listened to him and finally acknowledged that I couldn’t continue on my own. I finally gave myself permission to ask for the help I desperately needed. I needed support. I needed someone to point me in the right direction and someone to walk with me through my grief. I needed someone to tell me that I was going to be okay, that I could survive this and that I WAS strong enough to survive because they had survive their grief.
Being vulnerable like that is really scary. I didn’t like vulnerability. I held the belief that if I was vulnerable that I was also weak. I didn’t like feeling weak. I didn’t like needing anyone else. But as I let the support in and as I accepted feeling vulnerable, a new strength emerged. I started feeling better. My depression began to lift. I crawled my way toward a new reality that I didn’t even know existed. I later came across this quote and how I felt began to make sense.
“I am strong because I’ve been weak. I am fearless because I’ve been afraid. I am wise because I’ve been foolish.” -unknown
You too can find your strength if you are willing to let vulnerability in, ask for the help you need and let someone who is even a few steps ahead of you on your grief journey pour into you. Are you trying to grieve on your own? Who can you ask for support? Where can you find the support you need? It’s there waiting for you if you let yourself see it.