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Trauma, loss, pain. These are things in life that we all must deal with eventually. Some of us have sadly had to deal with it more than others, but we have all been touched by loss and grief. Everyone heals from the pain that comes with the loss of a loved one or a traumatic experience differently. There is no timetable and no "right" way to move forward.
In 2015 when Sadie passed away, I wondered if I would ever be able to pick up the pieces and move forward. But I knew I had to, somehow. My family deserved that. Sadie deserved it. I deserved it. But I didn't know where to start. Some days it felt like I was drowning, just barely staying afloat.
As time went on, I knew I wanted to do something to honor her. I wanted to help other people know that they aren't alone. But I didn't know what. Support group? That didn't seem right. Volunteer at the hospital? I couldn't really do that, our other kids are still too young for me to up and leave for hours at a time. Then one day, it hit me- a nonprofit. And from that, Sadie's Purpose was born.
If you are trying to cope with your grief and channel the pain into something good, please believe that you can. Not everyone will want to ever speak publicly about their pain, and that is understandable and completely okay. You don't need to do those things to turn grief into good. I will share several different ways you can turn your grief around for good. But you need to know some important things first. And please, if you feel like you may harm yourself or someone else, seek immediate help. Do not suffer alone!
Stages of grief:
There are five stages of grief. When we are dealing with a loss or trauma, we experience these stages, but not always in the same order. We may also go back to one after we thought we had moved ahead. That's okay. Grief is not black and white, and it's normal to feel stuck in limbo sometimes.
Denial- in this stage you may feel in shock and numb.
Anger- why is this happening, how could it happen? It's okay to feel the anger.
Bargaining- please don't let this happen. Undo it, I would do anything! You may beg for things to somehow change.
Depression- extreme sadness about what you have gone through. It is important to understand that when you have experienced loss or trauma, depression is normal and it is okay to allow yourself to be sad.
Acceptance- you have started to move forward and regain control. This doesn't mean that everything is okay or normal again. It might never be. But you have started to realize how to live again beyond the trauma or loss.
This site has some wonderful information about grief, and it is useful for both people experiencing grief and those trying to help their loved ones through a loss. Understanding the five stages of grief is one of the keys to processing your own pain and moving forward.
Coping your own way.
So many people worry that they are grieving the "wrong" way. How you process your pain and loss is very personal, and there isn't a wrong way. There are some ways that are more self-destructive, such as turning to drugs or alcohol, but that doesn't necessarily mean you are wrong or that there is something wrong with you. You may need more help, but that help is there and you can get through it.
Some people turn to religion. Some people see a therapist or join a support group. Others may visit a physician and get a prescription for a medication for depression or anxiety. Some may prefer to simply work through their pain on their own or with only a family member or close friend. All of these can and do work.
The important thing to remember is that no matter how you cope, it must be right for you. Don't let the judgment of others keep you from moving forward.
Channeling the grief for good:
It might take months or years before you feel ready to turn the pain into something good. Turning the grief into good does not mean that you have to share your story with your world or share it in public. There are things you can do that don't require you to share your story with a soul if you don't want to.
I did not start Sadie's Purpose until nearly six years after she passed away. Even now, sharing our family's story can be difficult. There are parts of it that I will never share because it is too painful for us to relive.
Once you feel like you're ready to move forward, only you will know what path is right for you. So, what are some options? How can you move forward from your pain and turn it around to help others?
Things you can do:
Some people want to be more open with their stories and will be comfortable in a more visible setting. Others will be much happier keeping their stories to themselves, helping in a less obvious manner. No matter which is right for you, you will feel empowered and in control.
Start a support group- when you have gone through a particular situation such as losing a child, losing a sibling, coming home from war, being trafficked, or any other trauma, you are in a special position to help others. When you share your story of surviving, they can see themselves in your story. It can give them hope. You can start a support group online or in person.
Write a book- if you want to keep your story private, you can write a book using a pen name. Your story will still help others, but you can keep your privacy. If you would like to use your own name, of course your story will still be just as powerful. A wonderful friend of mine, Jennifer Tracy, has written books about the trauma she has survived in her life. She has taken an unimaginable amount of pain and loss and has turned it around. She now helps others navigate depression, PTSD, and other mental health challenges. Her book is called "From the Deepest Darkness to the Light of Hope" and I highly recommend it. Not only is Jennifer an amazing author and mentor, but she is also a kind and wonderful person and I am honored to call her my friend. You can purchase your copy of her book here. * Whether you are struggling, know someone that is, or simply want to understand the world of mental health better, you can benefit from this book.
Volunteer- you can volunteer with an agency that helps people that have gone through the same things you have. Many opportunities are available to volunteer online or in person. Volunteer Match is a great place to start your search.
Start a nonprofit- in my case, I started Sadie's Purpose. This gives our loss meaning. It is a way to honor Sadie and help others at the same time. Because we spent seven months in the hospital, most of it in the NICU, we understand how families that are just beginning their journey feel and we know how we can help them. There are many different options if you want to start a nonprofit, and what will work best depends on what you feel is right and what the cause is.
Public speaking- this may be the most difficult option. Standing in front of a crowd and sharing your story is difficult, I imagine. If you are able to do it, many people could benefit from your inspirational words.
Whether you decide to do any of these things or something else entirely, only you can know when you will be ready to take that leap. Until then, remind yourself that grieving is a lifelong process and it's okay to feel like you're going backward sometimes. It's okay to need a little extra help sometimes, too. Never feel ashamed or afraid to ask for help if you need it. There are always people willing to do what they can for you.
It will be a constant work in progress, but you can break the shackles of grief and find the good in your life.
Do you have anything you can add that might help those in need cope with their loss or grief? Please share it in the comments.