Last week my friend Jheanell and I chatted on Facebook Live about how we both handled losing our babies. I had to make the choice really early on to not allow my grief to control me and to still continue to live the best life that I knew how. It is what Tristan would want but how do I do that when I’m constantly questioning all of the signs that were there? It’s not easy at all. Some days are great and some days are just plain shitty. Grief sucks and it comes in waves. Waves that are strong and can knock you down and consume you if you let them. The choice is yours. Once I made the choice to be strong or as strong as I could be, things changed.
Does it hurt still? Absolutely.
The key is to realize that you are still allowing yourself to mourn your loved one through these 6 healthy ways to grieve instead.
One of the ways that Tristan and I always bonded was through music. He had two favorite songs: “You Are My Sunshine” and Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’.” Every single day in the NICU I would sing “You Are My Sunshine” to him and just watch him smile. Some days he would fall asleep and others he would just stare and smile. “Cruisin'” was our nighttime song. I would play that song and rock him to sleep or pick him up and we would dance over and over. Although he’s gone I still play both of those songs every day. He’s not on Earth with me anymore but he’s still my sunshine and I can still sing to him every day. Music is an amazing form of grieving because there are so many songs that can evoke emotions whether they’re happy or sad. I made a playlist during our time in the NICU that TJ and I would listen to daily. Music was one of the things that he loved so I continue to use it, not only to honor his memory but to grieve as well. The music can make you cry, laugh or smile, all of which are essential to grieving.
I’m naturally a creative person so making things after Tristan passed was easy for me. A few days after he passed I created this shadowbox with his things so that we could hang it in our home. I thought that making it was going to be really hard and that I would cry the entire time but I didn’t. I don’t know if it was because I was making something for him but it brought a weird sense of peace along with making it. At Tristan’s Celebration of Life service we had a table where kids could make cards for Tristan. Since then, my family and I have made a handful of other things.
I’ve never been good at journaling until becoming a NICU mom. Journaling helps to relieve all of the emotions, I mean all of them. Bullet and gratitude journaling can be helpful after loss as well. After losing someone, you want to remember that there is so much to be grateful for although it may seem like you’ve lost everything. One thing that I try to do every single day when journaling is writing at least one thing that I’m thankful for that day.
4. Speak to someone
This one isn’t easy for everyone especially men. One thing that was very helpful for us after losing Tristan was that we had close friends that had gone through a similar situation. We were able to talk to them about what we were going through and they were able to talk us through it. Of course we all went and still go to therapy which is a huge help especially for Tatiana. Another thing that is also helpful is to join a support group but the key is finding the right one. You’ll want to find a group that is uplifting and empowering. A few days after Tristan passed I joined a support group specifically for trach angel babies and it was probably the worst thing that I could’ve done. Every day someone was posting how much they missed their baby and they couldn’t stop crying. I get it. I really do but that’s not helpful for anyone. We all understand because we’re going through the same thing but repeating that over and over is keeping you in a sad place which isn’t good for anyone. Find the right support group and you’ll gain so much from it.
You already know that my family loves traveling but we never realized that traveling could be one of the healthy ways to grieve until we took our first trip. Traveling can give you a new look on life especially after you’ve suffered such a tremendous loss. Plan a road trip or even a staycation if you’re looking for a healthy way to grieve. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate vacation.
6. Honor the person you lost
We’ve done this in so many different ways for Tristan and I can’t even explain how helpful it’s been for us. We started with Mamas of the NICU first and now we’re planning to walk in the annual walk for the NICU that Tristan called home. Another way that I honor Tristan is by writing about him. Other ways to honor your loved one could be doing a balloon release every year on their birthday, creating a memory box for them or even naming something like a street or a star after them.
There are so many healthy ways to grieve in addition the 6 that have helped my family. The most important thing is not allowing yourself to get stuck in your grief or any one stage of your journey. There is always something to look forward to no matter what and Tristan sends me reminders of that every single day.
P.S. You can watch our full video here.