An excerpt from the Introduction of Breaking the Rules of Grief, A Bereaved Mother’s Journey. By Shannon Harris
I should begin by warning you that there will be no substantial evidence supporting the ideas in this book. These are all my conflicted thoughts in black and white, perfectly spaced in Times New Roman size 12. Should my ideas mean something more than that to someone, great. If not, that’s okay too. After reading countless books and articles on grief and bereavement for parents who have lost a child, I think I’ve had enough information. Not that I am an expert by any means, but I have read enough facts, statistics and psychological theories to last me a lifetime. Being the knowledge seeker I am, I sought comfort in pouring myself into books when my five year old son died. Somehow, I was sure that the books would be my teachers and I the student. I was determined not to fail.
Three bookshelves and hundreds of dollars later, I was not much better off than I was before. I have always had a passion for reading and with my newfound quest to master bereavement. I blew through most of those books in a day. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t fully absorb their messages. Perhaps I should have read them more slowly, or likely there is some cosmic reason I didn’t relate to the content or the tone in which they were written, because here we are now.
Nearly four years later and struggling with my grief, I have decided to quit with the information overload and try expressing some of my own ideas instead. What the hell, right? I don’t have any delusions about being someone’s Oprah Winfrey, but maybe if I feel this way about the information out there then other people do as well.
So why now? Nearing the fourth anniversary of Anthony’s death, I find myself withdrawing into the deepest depression I have ever known. Desperately trying to figure this out, I sought the help of my primary care physician, a counselor and a psychiatrist. As a result, the dose of my regular anti-depressant was upped, my sleep aid prescription changed, and several counseling appointments were scheduled. None of which seemed to help as of yet. As I write, I wonder if growth and change occurs commonly in four-year increments. High school, college, presidential elections, and the Olympics are all four-year terms. There are four seasons in each year. This is the fourth counselor I’ve seen since Anthony’s death. Hey, maybe four is the charm.
The Winter Olympics are what tipped me off. I have read of the many stages of grief. I know a great deal about post-traumatic stress disorder. I am aware that certain reminders, or triggers, bring on huge emotional and physical reactions, whether I want them to or not. But I was not prepared for the sights and sounds of the Winter Olympics playing in the background of every house and restaurant I’ve been to this February. Anthony died in the living room of my mother’s house four Februarys ago, on the couch. The Winter Olympics were showing on the television 24/7 at the time. In a very morbid way it became the soundtrack to his death. After watching the Jamaican bobsled team at my sister’s house the other night, it suddenly struck me that it has been four years, which seems like an enormous amount of time to miss someone. And if the pain I am feeling after four years is this raw and real, then how am I expected to go a lifetime like this? This is one of the many questions I have for God.
But I hate God today and most days out of the week. I am trying not to, but I would be lying if I said I had some deep relationship with Him. Occasionally I do, but not today.
This book is intended to shine light on a different way to approach the subject of grief, as it pertains to the death of a child. An un-approach, if you will. The definition of the word “rule,” according to the almighty Google, is:
1. one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere. “the rules of the game were understood”
My interpretation of the “rules” of grief is intended for the very small sphere of bereaved mothers who, like me, cannot find comfort in traditional ways of expressing grief. My hope is that maybe another mom out there reads this and thinks to herself, “So, I’m not crazy after all,” and then (knock on wood) decides to live fearlessly in honor of her lost child.
Tags: bereaved parents, breaking the rules of grief, child loss, coping with grief and loss, grief help, shannon harris