by Emily Graham
Sitting in the hospital next to my son’s dead body, my husband and I made the decision to do everything in our power to survive this impossible blow. That pact was forged with the acknowledgment we would both grieve very differently… and that was OK.
In those moments, we had no idea what we were talking about. We just knew we were the only two people in the world that could understand.
Our 7-year-old son Cameron had gone from healthy to “there’s nothing more we can do” in 12 hours. It was unexpected and life-shattering on so many levels. Just as every decision had been made in unison that night… so would every step of this journey after it. That was the plan anyway.
I don’t believe we ever really know what to expect until we are living the nightmare. At that point, life has placed you on a never-ending roller coaster that leaves you hanging on for dear life. Even when you don’t want to. And believe me, we had moments we didn’t want to.
That first year there were a lot of bumps… and surprises… and changes… and unknowns. Mostly there was pain. We did what we thought we were supposed to do, grieve alone and put on a charade to make everyone else feel better.
Secretly we would watch each other and think, “I am alone in this.” We couldn’t fathom why the other seemed so “normal”. What we didn’t realize was that as we both did anything we needed to survive, we didn’t communicate with each other what that was or why. There were no windows to the reality of the pain under the mask.
I chose to share our story and my grief publicly on my blog Just Playing House. I found connection, “me too”, and an outlet for the darkness that had taken over my life. He threw himself back into work. Money is a necessary evil, and someone had to pay the bills. He also bought a punching bag to release his anger
We were pretty far down the road before something happened that caused a crack in his shell, letting his grief spill out in my presence. Seeing it still existed bridged that communication gap between us and renewed our pact.
I needed to see it! Proof I wasn’t alone.
There is no right or wrong on this journey.
All we can do is continue to put one foot in front of the other and always assume the other feels the same way we do (deep down anyway). We are so conditioned not to talk about grief and death that even those of us who have experienced it find it too uncomfortable to discuss.
Find a way to open the conversation. Say it. Write it. Find words written by someone else and share them with your partner. Create any way to let the other in, even just the slightest bit.
I’m sure you’ve heard marriages break under the stress of child loss. They can. But it doesn’t mean they have to.
Grief can make us feel crazy and so incredibly lonely. Don’t give it that power. Instead, make that pact to survive together! Then do whatever you have to do to make it happen.
About the Author: Emily Graham is a bereaved parent, writer, and certified grief coach, Emily empowers child loss survivors with the tools and support they need to take that next step forward. When her 7-year-old son died unexpectedly on Christmas of 2015, she felt her life spiral out of control. Suddenly, she found herself going through the motions of a life she didn’t recognize or want. All bereaved parents can relate to that!
She started sharing her personal grief story on her blog, Just Playing House. This grew into writing for Still Standing Magazine. Writing became a cathartic outlet that created connection within this club that none of us wants to be a part of.
Today, Emily is a Grief Coach at After Child Loss. She offers a free online workshop called Navigating Child Loss. In addition, she manages a free Facebook group for bereaved parents called Living After Child Loss, hosts a YouTube channel, and facilitates various programs to help bereaved parents rebuild their lives around their loss.
Emily Graham is a bereaved parent, writer, and Grief Coach. When her 7-year-old son died unexpectedly on Christmas in 2015, she felt her life spiral out of control. She began sharing her grief story on her blog Just Playing House, which became a cathartic outlet that created connection. From there she launched After Child Loss. Now, Emily empowers child loss survivors with the tools and support they need to take the next step forward.
Emily shares her story about Cameron’s death here