My perceptions about grief and the way we deal with loss has radically changed since the death of my daughter Jeannine more than seven years ago. Prior to Jeannine’s death, I grieved the deaths of other people in my life for a specific period of time and eventually returned to life, as I knew it.
Ongoing connection to our loved ones as a way to negotiate grief was not a part of my grief vocabulary. I never viewed grief as a lifelong process that permanently changed the way we related to the world and transformed us as human beings.
Finding meaning after loss wasn’t something with which I could readily identify.
After Jeannine died, I discovered that my prior beliefs about grief were not going to help me manage the pain of the worst loss of my life. Jeannine’s death permanently changed the way that I viewed grief and the world around me. The pain that I experienced as a result of her death triggered a complete spiritual transformation.
Last year, I started working on a concept that I call “Pieces of Me.” My hope was to develop a way for parents to identify the best qualities of their children and incorporate them into their own lives so that they can maintain a continuing bond and find meaning after the death of their children. Doing this helped me tremendously in my grief journey.
In her eighteen years of life, Jeannine was, among other things, determined, playful, honest, compassionate and heartfelt. By incorporating those characteristics of my daughter into my life, she became a partner with me in the service work that I now do with bereaved parents. Incorporating those characteristics also allows me to maintain a continuing relationship with her.
“Pieces of Me” involves a total redefinition of the self following the death of our children. It is a self that is enhanced because the essence of our children is a part of who we are now. If we wish to redefine our selves following the death of our children there are three basic questions that we can ask:
1. What qualities or characteristics of (child’s name) do you admire the most?
2. How can you make these qualities a part of your own life so that you can find meaning and joy, amidst the sadness of grief?
3. How can you make these qualities a part of your own life so that you can be of service to others?
There is no time frame to begin answering these questions. As our grief journeys as bereaved parents are lifelong, you can start any time that you are ready. These questions can also be used by anyone who has experienced a loss of any kind, and who desires to stay connected to their loved ones.
“ All I know
Is that I have breathed your name for what feels like a lifetime
I can’t let go, you’re a part of me.”
Lyrics from the song “Hand on My Heart” by Foreigner
Written by M.Jones/L.Gramm/B.Turgon
Published by Somerset Songs Publishing, Inc.