In ancient Hebrew Scriptures, Yahweh gave 10 Commandments to Moses, following the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. First recorded in the book of Exodus, these Commandments are moral statutes designed for the Israelites to enjoy fruitful and holy living. Unlike the Biblical Ten Commandments, the 15 Bereavement Commandments listed here, are not universal and timeless standards of right and wrong. Rather, they are principles that many grieving individuals, especially bereaved parents, have found beneficial for surviving the emotional roller coaster of the grief journey.
The purpose of these 15 Bereavement Commandments is to offer you a pathway to inner peace following the most devastating experience of a lifetime–the death of your precious child.
1. Thou shall expect to experience an array of confusing, conflicting and at times overwhelming feelings, sometimes accompanied by rampant tears. This is not unusual and is a part of the normal grieving process.
2. Thou shall learn as much as possible about the grieving process. It is important that you understand what to expect, what is normal, and if or when it may be necessary to seek professional bereavement support. Knowledge is power. Knowing the facts about grief and grieving serves as a “reality check” and lessens the feeling of powerlessness.
3. Thou shall take life one day at a time. Some days this may mean getting through one difficult moment or one hour at a time. Getting through each day can be a great accomplishment.
4. Thou shall give thyself permission to grieve. This means learning to accept the loss, facing it and walking right through the middle of it. Some wise person once said, “The only way out is through.” Even though grief is painful, walking through the pain is the only known way to release it and begin to heal.
5. Thou shall ignore clichés, such as “God knows best…;” or “they are in a better place…;” or “s/he is no longer in pain” statements. Comments that begin with “at least”, coming from those who have not experienced the death of a child are intended to be comforting, but usually miss the mark. Accept the good intentions and ignore the rest.
6. Thou shall not hold thyself responsible for contributing to your child’s death, in any way. No matter what happened, remember you would have done anything in your power to save your child.
7. Thou shall grieve in your own way– for as long as it takes. There is no schedule, no time limit, and no template on how to grieve. Everyone’s grief journey is unique.
8. Thou shall take the opportunity to talk about your child. Telling your child’s story can be very comforting to you and gives permission to others, to speak of your child. Repeating your story helps you to face the reality of the loss.
9. Thou shall surround thyself with supportive people. This is one of the most difficult times in your life. A support group (such as The Compassionate Friends), a trusted friend, or an understanding family member, can be a sounding board and can help to lighten the load of grief.
10. Thou shall use some means for “externalizing” the grief (getting the grief outside of yourself). Once externalized, grief is more manageable. This can be accomplished by such activities as journaling or other forms of writing, quilting, meditating, composing music or poetry, weeping with the conscious intent to release, or rigorous physical activity, just to name a few.
11. Thou shall plan for special days, such as birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. These days can be difficult, especially in the early years of grief. Having a plan can help to reduce the dread, mitigate the pain, and help to transform the pain into a meaningful memorial.
12. Thou shall remember your child’s life, as well as the death. To honor your child’s memory, plant a tree, carry a linking object (anything that serves as a positive reminder), or create a memorial/remembrance of your choice.
13. Thou shall love thy self as much as you love your child. This means taking care of you without feeling guilty for laughing or enjoying yourself. You are not deserting or betraying your child by living on and savoring pleasant moments whenever possible.
14. Thou shall connect with your Higher Power, Supreme Being, God, Allah, Great Mother, or whomever you look to for strength. Meditation, prayer, spiritual literature, and other practices help to make that connection.
15. Thou shall reach out and touch someone. The act of doing something to comfort or support someone else helps keep your own grief in perspective. It is also a way to honor your child’s memory.
I encourage you to add your own personal commandments to this list. I hope that these 15 Commandments for surviving your child’s death will help guide you along your grief journey toward finding hope, healing and peace. Shalom.
Coralease C. Ruff 2012