The first week after our 8 year old daughter died, I walked around like a zombie. My life was just a dream, I thought, and this is not happening to me. I was overwhelmed by the enormous pain that I felt and nothing mattered anymore. I did not know how to be toward others, I didnít even think about what needed doing around the house. I could barely eat let alone plan a meal. As Iíve now learned, I was acting normal under the circumstances.
Here are some things that I learned that first week:
There is no ďprocessĒ for this, no steps to follow or guidelines to obey. It is important to let yourself do whatever it is that you need to do. For example, if you want to walk around aimlessly in your backyard and mumble then do it. If you forgot about doing a load of laundry, donít worry about it. If you donít want to answer the phone, itís ok to let the machine pick it up.
Let other people do it for you. People who care about you want to do anything they can to help. They know they canít fix your pain. They know words are empty and that a hug is temporary. But they desperately want to do something for you and you need to let them. To this day, I have no idea who folded my underwear and put it away for me that week. I ate because my aunt made me scrambled eggs at 4 oíclock in the afternoon. My surviving daughter was never left unattended because my sister took care of her.
As difficult as it is to ask for help sometimes, now is the time to do it. Tell someone what you might need, like a glass of water that you canít get yourself because youíre afraid youíll collapse if you stand up. Or maybe you need to be quiet and want someone to sit next to you, silent.
Pile condolence cards in a basket and read them when youíre ready. It is not a requirement to respond to any of them. Donít answer the door to receive flowers and gifts. Itís a strain to try and put on a pleasant face to a stranger.
Let yourself cry. Just cry. Sobbing uncontrollably is ok, too. Even yelling and wailing is ok. Who cares if someone hears you? Rock back and forth and hug yourself and cry. When your eyes are too puffy and tired, let someone get you a cool cloth and then rest.
And lastly, breathe. Take a long, deep breath and blow it out hard. Make up a mantra and repeat it to yourself again and again, something like ďI will be okĒ and then take another nourishing breathe.