permissions of grief

Life is picking up speed again and I am not sure how I feel about it. As the time is passing, so is the anxiety about life slowly dissipating.

We are learning to allow ourselves to be comfortable with whatever we are feeling. To be less judgemental and easier on ourselves. To just be. This has not come easily. In fact, it hasn’t entirely arrived (and I do not suspect it will in some ways). Things that I am able to say today will not necessarily be the same as how I feel tomorrow. Grief is finicky. It is unpredictable. We are doing what we can. We know that healthy grief has to include permissions.

The permission to be distracted. I have been afraid to live, to allow my mind to focus on things non-Owen, for fear of dishonouring my son. I have been comfortable in our world completely devoted to our little boy. Everything that we do is for our son. I have fears of doing otherwise. However, the plans that I have been afraid to make since Owen was born are now slowly being made, and combining into a semblance of life. I am allowing more to happen and becoming increasingly more at ease with this. I understand that a life lived is one lived for myself and for my family. I am learning how to live in spite of the fact that a terrible thing has happened to the three of us. My husband and I admittedly feel better when we live, when we experience the beauty of the world with our son. We have given ourselves the permission to live for our little boy, for our family, and sometimes, now, for ourselves. It still does not feel quite right, but I suppose this is now inherently true – nothing will ever feel perfectly right without Owen physically here.

The permission to enjoy without shame or guilt. This one is a constant battle. I still feel this when I am distracted. The sinking feeling that builds in the chest, aching for its exit. The grief that is telling you that you need more time together, that your child died and you have no right to do anything but wallow. We have not felt comfortable, or deserving, of doing things. Life has just not felt right. I imagine most things we experience will always feel bittersweet. However, we have started to allow some of life’s little pleasures to creep back in. We have enjoyed. We have laughed. We have smiled. It still feels wrong, but we are trying. We are trying.

The permission to feel what we feel. If we are angry, we need to feel angry. If we are sad, we need to feel sad. If we are confused, we need to feel confused. If we are happy, we need to feel happy. We need to feel and be allowed to do so without judgement from ourselves or perceived judgment from those around us. If only for fleeting moments, these are emotions that are important to sit with when we need to sit with them.

The permission to make space. We need to learn to recognize boundaries that our emotions are setting. Sometimes it is the need to stop what we are doing and go for a walk with our thoughts, to sit next to the river with Owen, to breathe and take in the beauty of the world around us. Other times, choosing to walk back into the house when there are other new parents naively congregating at the end of your driveway with their strollers, or withdrawing from conversations with the well-intentioned, but oh-so-misguided. Following our hearts with the understanding that they know us best and will not lead us astray.

The permission to cry. I have been good with this one. I will allow the tears to come when they need to, wherever I am, whoever I am with. Sometimes this seems to cause worry in those around me, often followed by a slew of unnecessary apologies. As a society, we have packaged tears up, adhering a label indicating fragility. People are afraid they will make us cry. They nervously shift in their boots, treading lightly, avoiding conversations for fear of bringing up sadness. They are mistaken. I want to talk about my son. I am sad that he died, I miss him terribly, but I am okay with crying. Tears are healing. Sometimes I cry out of happiness, other times out of sadness, many times I have no idea why. This is all okay. Handle with care, but it is important to allow for tears.

The permission not to cry. I am working on this one. I have shed a tear every day since Owen was born. 29 weeks and 1 day now. I am afraid for the day when I realize I have not. A fear that stems from the irrational thought that my tears are somehow indicative of the strength of the love I have for my son. Of how much I miss him. I know this is not true, but I am still afraid. I worry that the first day I do not cry my mind will tell my heart it has ‘moved on’. I do not want to move on. I am comfortable where I am. I am afraid.

At times, it feels like we are not able to do any of this, that we know we need to allow ourselves permissions, but they seem out of reach. Sometimes we have a handle on some, but not on others. This is okay. We have accepted that we are not in control of this journey. We know that above all else, we have to also give ourselves the permission to simply be. To sit with the inability to feel like life is worth living. To be angry at the world and want to kick, scream, cry at the injustice of it all. To take a step back, forward, or to not move at all.

I do not believe that everything is going to be okay, as believing this is somehow accepting that I am alright with a life without Owen physically here. We can, however, allow ourselves the permissions along the way to make the journey a little less bumpy.


3 thoughts on “permissions of grief

  1. Jessica May 22, 2015 / 12:36 pm

    Your courage is amazing. Love to the three of you.


  2. Gretchen May 23, 2015 / 12:54 pm

    A bereaved mother told me years ago…

    Never apologize for your grief.

    And those words have meant a lot to me, as I’ve struggled with the naïve viewpoints and opinions of those around me. I have so often had that (society-imposed?) urge to apologize for my sorrow, for my general lack of enthusiasm, for tearing up (or not) when I talk about Zachary or B.W., for my tendency to back away from groups or situations that are in one or another dangerous for me. But apologizing would be invalidating to myself and my grief.

    I’m glad you are learning, although it’s slow and painful, how to cope in and through the emotions and situations you are faced with. It’s like reawakening to an entirely new world.


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