I didn’t believe that my son would die.  The death of a child is a tragic and horrific event that happens to someone else, not to me.  Until it did.  The grieving process sucked the very life out of me.  My grief strained me emotionally as I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions like anger, depression, guilt, sadness and confusion.  The grief process drained me physically as I realized that the energy I was accustomed to having each day had vanished with my son and was no longer available.

I remember telling myself that I should get over being so sad and depressed.  I remember other people telling me that it was time to move on and get back to my life.  I felt like I should.  I wanted to.  But I couldn’t and I didn’t know where to begin.

I spent time berating myself for not being further along in the grief process and not being able to force ably will myself to get better.  I wanted to fix myself and get back to “normal”.

I didn’t know how to be gentle with myself or how to be patient during the grief process.  Up until now, I hadn’t been gentle or patient with myself in any aspect of my life, so why did I think that I could suddenly change who I was and be gentle or patient with myself as I grieved?

Then, one day, I woke up and decided that I didn’t want to go to work, I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone else and I didn’t want to force ably will myself to act as if I was okay.  I got dressed, packed an overnight bag and drove away in my car.  I drove far enough away that everything around me was new and different.  I found comfort in the fact that everything around me was completely, unfamiliar.

I sat in a hotel room and looked out over the ocean.  I walked along a cobble stone path with the sun and wind on my face.    I slept well past dawn the next day and began writing down what I was feeling, raw and unfiltered.  I talked to my son as if he were with me in that very room until I said everything I needed to say. I had begun my true healing in that hotel room.

I gave myself permission to be alone, to disappear for the weekend and feel all the emotions that had been wrapped up inside me.  My life began to shift in a positive direction after I began to engage in the grief process and after I learned how to be- selfish.  I stopped trying to get over it, stopped trying to ignore what I was feeling and push it all out of my mind.  I learned to embrace my grief.  I accepted it as something bigger than myself and I started to seek help.

Working one-on-one with a coach gave me permission to focus on myself and my healing.  I learned how to be selfish.  I selfishly learned how to control my environment and surround myself with people who could support me in a way I needed to be supported and I limited those who couldn’t help me. (even if they wanted to)

I selfishly engaged in what I like to call massive self-care to help me feel better one moment at a time.  I selfishly asked myself what I needed to find comfort in the pain I was experiencing.  And selfishly, I gave myself permission to do what I needed to do and feel what I needed to feel without judgement from myself or anyone else.

I asked myself what I needed each day.  Do I need to talk through my pain today or do I need time to process in silence?  Do I want to be with others today or would I rather spend time in nature, alone in contemplation?

I had spent most of my life in service of others, taking care and worrying about everyone around me.  Being selfish made all the difference to help me heal more quickly.  I gave myself permission to put others on the back burner for now, so that I could heal on my journey.  I learned that it was both my right and my responsibility to take care of myself.

And being selfish is what I needed.  It taught me to heal me first, so that I could eventually help others and ultimately realize that I am not alone on this journey.  Being selfish was unfamiliar and it didn’t seem right to be self-serving when others were pulling at me and wanting more than I had to give.

I looked within and asked for guidance.  And when I read this quote, I knew that I was doing exactly the right thing.

“Look in front of you…there are others encouraging and guiding you.  Look beside you…there are others on the same journey.  Look behind you…there are others who are encouraged by you.  We are not alone on this journey.”  The grief toolbox

Today I want to coach you.  I want you to know that this is YOUR grief journey and it is your right and responsibility to be take care of yourself.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be patient with your healing.  Be SELFISH.

With love, hope and healing,

Catherine McNulty

Learn more about Catherine’s coaching program at https://griefinspired.com/grief-coaching/


Catherine McNulty

After losing her infant son in 2011, Catherine embarked on a journey to do more than survive grief. The loss forever changed the trajectory of her life and sent her looking for meaning and purpose for the life she was given. She channeled the love for her son into her own healing, self-growth and personal empowerment. Today, she has created a framework to grief that disrupts conventional ways of looking at loss. She challenges her clients to step outside of a victim mindset and regain control of how they navigate grief. She teaches how to grow through grief and encourages speaking openly about grief to break down the walls of silence around grief. Catherine lives in San Diego with her family where she speaks, writes, and offers coaching to those who want to do more than just survive grief. She is a board member of Empty Cradle and volunteers at Miracle Babies and the Ronald McDonald House. Her business, Grief INSPIRED supports those who are grieving and guides them to create a new normal that honors the ones they’ve lost.

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