Parents Hold Urn of the Child They Lost

By Betty Mertens, Ella’s Mom

No Wrong Way to Grieve

There is no way for me to understand exactly what you are feeling right now, but I know one thing – you’re not wrong. When my husband and I lost our 13-month-old daughter suddenly in 2017, people had no idea what to say to us. How could they? Grief is such a complex emotion and everyone handles it differently. Plus, losing a child is just awful and nothing anyone can say makes it better.

Let’s be honest, the whole situation is very awkward. When people don’t know what to say, they tend to hang back and watch. Unfortunately, the result is an enhanced feeling of scrutiny not unlike a caged animal at the zoo. During a super emotionally vulnerable time, it felt like we were under a microscope. There was this strange pressure for us to process our grief “correctly,” but we had no idea what that even looked like.

Reflecting on our experience, I want to encourage you not to feel guilty about your emotions. It is important to acknowledge them so you can learn from them and move forward. My husband and I found it very helpful to journal in the year that followed our daughter’s death. It gave us a place to be real about what we were thinking and feeling without any external pressure or judgment. In reality, there is no “correct” way to process your grief – we’re all just winging it.

If your experience is anything like ours, some days will be harder than others. No amount of positive thinking will ever make the pain go away, but even on the worst days, the good outweighs the bad. Our lives have more beauty and depth because we had Ella. She made us stronger, broadened our perspective, introduced us to new friends, opened doors for us to help others, and taught us never to take a day for granted. 

There is really no right way to grieve. No matter where you are on your journey, you’re not wrong. It’s important to express your feelings, and sometimes the easiest way to do that is to talk to someone else who has been there. I know my husband and I would be happy to talk with you, or you can request to be connected with “A Parent Like You” on this website. Just be authentic with your emotions, give yourself lots of grace, and trust that you can come out of this stronger.

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