Alan Wolfelt's book called 'Understanding Your Grief' has helped me in healing from my most recent loss - the death of my granddaughter, Nevaeh. In his book, Wolfelt discusses the ten essential touchstones for finding hope and healing your heart from the loss of a loved one. The first touchstone is called "Open to the presence of your loss".

He says that when it comes to grief: you can't go around it, you can't go through it, you can't go over it, and you can't go under it. You have to go through it. I have found this to be so very true.

I did not want to face the death of a Nevaeh because of the pain. I did not want to feel pain - pain is bad. What I did not realize, and what Wolfelt helped me to realize, was pain is an indication that I am doing the griefwork necessary to heal - I am feeling my feelings. Just like the pain of a broken arm compels one to seek medical attention for healing - the pain of grief compels you to heal your heart. Like broken arm pain, grief pain does not last forever - provided you go through it. If you deny it, it will not only last forever, but it can turn into depression. Depression exasperates grief making it almost impossible to grieve.

One of the questions Wolfelt asked which helped me a lot was "What does it mean to honor your pain?" For me, it meant to let it wash over me in waves enough that I could handle but not drown. It meant crying whenever and wherever I was and not making apologies for my feelings. It meant wrapping a doll in Nevaeh's baby blanket and rocking her while I cried. It meant honoring myself for all that I felt and all that I lost.

I not only lost my granddaughter - I lost being her grandmother. I lost the special-tie that bound my daughter and me together as I helped her care for Nevaeh's special needs. I lost other relationships that did not support or understand what I was going through. I lost a career I thought I would have for the rest of my life. So many secondary losses kept adding to the loss of Nevaeh. In recognizing all those loses I more fully honored what had and was happening to me.

Wolfelt encourages us to take a loss inventory: The first loss I recall was the loss of my dog. Her name was Pepper. I was about 8 years-old and my parents were not very keen on encouraging or accepting children's emotions. Children were to be seen, not heard. As a result I did not heal from that loss. The next loss I recall was the loss of my great Uncle - who was my perpetrator. That loss caused a lot of mixed emotion. I hated him and was happy he was dead, but I was also sad because my family was sad. The next loss was my grandmother's death, which hurt me deeply. But I was a new mother and had no time to grieve that loss properly. The next loss was my father's death. I felt like I was going to loose my mind so I stuffed all of that because I did not want to go crazy. The next loss was my brother's death. I numbed out on that one. It was too much to bare. The last significant loss in my life was the death of my granddaughter - Nevaeh (pictured here). When she died I was smart enough to know that if I did not deal with her loss - and subsequently all the other unresolved losses that arose because of her death, then I would surely become a bitter, angry, unhealthy and unhappy soul. Nevaeh gave me the courage I needed to face the losses of my life. I went through the loss of Nevaeh - not around it, not over it, not behind it - I went full force through it. Three years later I can honestly say I am a much better person for having gone through it. Honestly, I am still going through it. Death is not something you get over. It is something you learn to live with.

I found that many people tried to protect themselves from the pain of her loss by trying to make me stop grieving. They couldn't stand to watch me go through the grieving process because it brought up unresolved grief of their own. I had to let go of those people and realize they had their own stuff to handle. I was handling enough. My plate was full. It was very difficult to lose Nevaeh and other important relationships. All of those losses made grieving Nevaeh almost unbearable at times.

What were some of your early losses that contributed to the complication of your current grief?
What does it mean to honor your grief?
What do you want to experience in your grieving process?

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Replies to This Discussion

I lost my grand daughter on the 25th of March.....thank you so much for your posting. What you said about not only losing your grand daughter but also your being a grand mother is so true. We raise our daughters little girls and sweet Addison was our first "grand baby", the one we could watch our son love, teach, enjoy, take pride in....to watch him lose that and have that pain is almost unbearable then to have your own heartbreak and loss on top of it gets to be to much sometimes. Our sweet Addison was a healthy, happy baby when he took her to the sitters that morning, kissed her goodbye, told her Daddy would see her after work...by 10:30 that morning we had lost our precious little angel....You do lose relationships because, as you said, people don't want to watch you grieve and I guess some think that you should be able to "get over it" much quicker than you can or do. Again, thank you for this wonderful post, it helped to read it.....
To Kalyn,

I am sorry your grand daughter died. So much to lose in such a small, wonderful little 'bundle'. "They" say that the best things come in little packages - grandchildren prove that adage correct. And, if Addison died on March 25, 2010, then your loss is new and the pain is unbearable at times. My heart breaks for you.

It has been 3 years since Nevaeh's death and just last month something happened that made it seem as if it were only yesterday. It took several days to recover. Because of the griefwork I have done, the recovery time was shorter, and the intensity was lessened. I am grateful for that, but I am also grateful for the split second experience of holding Nevaeh again. I long to smell heaven in her hair again, as I am sure you long for the same. Grandchildren have a very special place in our society and in our hearts. Whether they live with us, as ours did, or if they are far away, they bring a joy nothing else can or ever will. The loss of that joy is another secondary loss hard to take at times.

I wish you well.

Estil
Estil,

I do long to smell her again. It's amazing how much you do wish to just smell them, there is no more wonderful smell than a new baby. Today it would be one month since we have lost her. It can't really be a month, can it? The pain makes it feel like yesterday. I just went to the store here and people, that would normally stop to talk, just turn and walk away...why is that? I realize some don't know what to say but you would think that they could at least not act like you have the plaque. I guess it just hit me wrong. Not as wrong as the "Are things getting back to normal?" question. How can people be so ignorant, do they not know that there is not now or ever will be again "normal" in our lives? Heartbroken is our new normal. The pain may lessen over time but the hole in our lives will always be there. My daughter has also had three miscarriages, my brothers son died the day he was born. Our family is not new to these pains..I guess people think that since we have lost so many little ones that the hurt gets to be less....it only intensifies with each one....I look around our community and see hardly no one else that has lost one precious little one let alone 5 in the last 7 years, and I ask why...............

Estil Canterbury said:
To Kalyn,

I am sorry your grand daughter died. So much to lose in such a small, wonderful little 'bundle'. "They" say that the best things come in little packages - grandchildren prove that adage correct. And, if Addison died on March 25, 2010, then your loss is new and the pain is unbearable at times. My heart breaks for you.

It has been 3 years since Nevaeh's death and just last month something happened that made it seem as if it were only yesterday. It took several days to recover. Because of the griefwork I have done, the recovery time was shorter, and the intensity was lessened. I am grateful for that, but I am also grateful for the split second experience of holding Nevaeh again. I long to smell heaven in her hair again, as I am sure you long for the same. Grandchildren have a very special place in our society and in our hearts. Whether they live with us, as ours did, or if they are far away, they bring a joy nothing else can or ever will. The loss of that joy is another secondary loss hard to take at times.

I wish you well.

Estil
To Kalyn,
I am sorry you have to deal with a community of mourning avoiders.

I think you might have something when you said "how can they be so ignorant?". I lost two "valuable at the time" relationships. One while the baby was dieing, and one shortly after she died. I agree ignorance plays a part, but I also think fear plays a larger part. I don't know about where you live, but around here superstitions are common place. I've heard people say out loud, that if they think about it it will happen to them. I sometimes wonder if the most egocentric people live in NW Ohio and SW Michigan to believe that if they think it, it will happen - like they are all powerful. But I also wonder if it is just some kind of excuse because they are too weak to stand toe to toe with someone who still stands after the loss of a baby.
After one month - your strength shines through very brightly. And after 5 losses in 7 years, I am convinced that you are made of material woven into super heroes. I am also deeply sorry you carry such a heart ache that most could not even begin to understand.
There is something about the smell of a baby's head that connects us to something primal, heavenly, and other wordly. We will miss that together.
What was her favorite toy?
Peace,
Estil
I do not feel super heroish, lol....I have horrible days where I simply want to be left alone with my memories and my grief....People here are not so superstitious, funny you mention that as my son is and I can't for the life of me figure out why....I never have been and my husband isn't, I guess that's just him...I have people ask me all the time how we do this, I guess they think we have a choice, we don't. You know that. I am sorry you have lost relationships because of your loss, I believe I am in the process of doing the same. People are, like you said, afraid to stand toe to toe with someone who has suffered such a great loss and are still standing. I have alot of faith in God and continue to trust him with his plan. I try to explain to people that God didn't do this "to us", he took Addison out of here "for her". I believe when God takes someone home it's because it's the best for them. I try to look at Addisons life, as short as it was, and figure out what she was here to teach me, what did I learn from having the honor of being her grandmother? How do I become a better person to honor her even in death?

I do miss that smell. I used to smell her everytime she came to stay with me, just take a good long whiff and cherish it. We will miss that together, you and I. I know when we left the hospital that day all her mommy wanted was something of hers to smell. We couldn't find anything. Everything in her bag had been taken to the hospital and, since she died at home the detectives had to go through everything. We finally did get everything back. One thing I will never forget is how cold it seemed to walk away from that hospital, with nothing.....They had already left with her, taking her to a bigger town to perform an autopsy. It was just so, I don't know, there are no words to describe that feeling of shock, unbelieving, empty..... Addison did have two favorite toys. One was a musical Giraffe, and they put that with her. Every time I went to the funeral home I made sure to wind it up and keep it playing as long as I could. The other was a sea horse that lit up and played lullabys. My oldest grand daughter, who I raise, has one just like it that she has had for years......Also that Tuesday Addison had played with a little stuffed panda bear while she stayed with me and slobbered all over it and cooed and loved on it, it is now put away and I will cherish it forever. Please know that I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers....tomorrow Addison will be gone for three months and on the 4th of July, she will of been gone for as long as we had her.....the pain says it was yesterday, how can it be that she's fixing to be gone longer than we've had her? I miss her everyday as I know you do your sweet angel....
Dearest Kalyn
My heart was beating faster as I finished reading your post -familiarity at every turn - I am so so so sorry for your loss. It seems like grand parents get the double whammy - we lose our grand child and we have to watch our children lose their innocence, feeling helpless and grief stricken all in one.
I remember the day that my Nevaeh was gone longer than she had been alive - disbelief filled every corner. How could it be? The pain insurmountable and the tears limitless. I now know I did the right thing by allowing myself to feel EVERYTHING no matter how much it hurt because I now know that the degree of pain was equal to the degree of love. Had I not loved her as much as I did (and still do) I would not have hurt so bad. And for you, it is the same. Your love for her is mighty, deep and all consuming. I am so very sorry that your grief feels the same. I am comforted to know that not everyone can grieve - only those who can love can grieve. Even though knowing that does not help with the pain, swollen eyes, wails, lack of energy, sleeplessness, lack of interest or anger - it does help me (and I hope you) to know we are fully human grandmothers breaking in two over the loss of our precious grand daughters.
Did you put the panda in a plastic bag? I put one of Nevaeh's outfits in a plastic bag and could still smell her after three months. I hope you can too.
Did she have a favorite place and way she liked to sleep?

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