Author: Nathalie Himmelrich

Hi, my name is Nathalie. I'm the founder of the Grieving Parents Support Network (GPSN), the May We All Heal peer support group. I'm also the author of numerous grief resource books. As a psychotherapist, I work mainly in the area of grief recovery. You can also find me here www.nathaliehimmelrich.com I write regularly on blogs and articles and I'm looking forward to your comments.

Find more here: www.grievingparents.net

The ‘Right’ and the ‘Wrong’

Find more here: www.grievingparents.net

It just IS.

Over the past week I have taken a ‘sitting-at-my-desk’ break and focused on outdoor activities and enjoyed my creativity with photography. I have also had more time to ponder and let thoughts take me where ever they wanted, rather than where I wanted them.

I had a conversation with my husband about right and wrong and my thoughts wandered back to the time shortly after the birth of my girls and after Amya had passed away. I remember thinking: How can this happen to me? What does this mean? Why Amya?

I clearly remember this one point in time, where I said to my husband: “This sounds strange but suddenly all seems as it should be. Everything seems right.” I wouldn’t have said this to anyone else because seriously, a woman who just lost her daughter thinking ‘everything seems right’ must be crazy…

Now, 3 years later, I don’t think in terms of ‘right or wrong’ anymore in relation to the death of my daughter. I don’t believe ‘she should be here’ or ‘it’s not right for her sister to grow up alone’. What is, is.

‘Wrong’ and ‘right’ are judgments based on a measurement that we make up. It’s not real or based on any hard and fast rule. Who am I to know that the death of my child is right or wrong? It’s neither.

What I can say is that it has felt devastating, hard to believe, and immeasurably sad. And even that has changed. Now it has become part of our family’s history and reality. It’s no longer devastating. There are sad moments but mostly, my life is about wrestling with a 3 year-old headstrong toddler and enjoying her antics.

When Is It Time To Delete My Late Mother’s Address Details?

~ AMY & Mimi ~

~ AMY & Mimi ~

I’ve been wondering about this for a while.
My mother will be dead 3 years in January. When I came to live in Switzerland (2+ years ago) I took over my mum’s mobile phone number due to reasons that would not fit into this blog post.

I’ve caused a few shocks to people who had her saved in their phone, when I called and my Mum’s name appeared on the display.
One of my aunt even told me she didn’t want to call me because of the significance of my phone number.

Today, again, I received an SMS from my Mum’s. As I typed a message to my husband in the messenger App on the Mac, it appeared with my Mum’s name on the phone. This does not happen all the time so I’m curious to when it does (and when not).

Sometimes my Dad calls and my Mum’s name appears, as their home details where saved as one contact detail.

Like with Amya I don’t need to be reminded that my Mum and my daughter are dead. It’s not something I will ever forget.

So, when is it time to delete her contact details from my address book?

Post-Loss: How do you go through the day, month, year?

This question I ask myself again and again. With time, the question has become less frequent and also less intense. Still, like today, not much seems to make sense.

I sit at my desk, listen to “Don’t give up” by John Legend, Pink and Herbie Hancock and hope it somehow helps. Try it here below, while reading…

I stare holes into the air.

I think about eating something, probably chocolate.

I have negative thoughts piling up in my mind storage.

I get tired.

I feel down.

I don’t believe I have friends (as Pink tries to convince me in the background)

(You might not guess, but it’s really hard to even write this bloody post!)

I do nothing.

Until I move again.

~~~<>~~~

So later, when someone who won the book wrote an email asking the question in the title, I sat down and wrote an answer. It went something like this:

“This is when self-care is in need. It might be taking myself to bed, resting, crying… or having a cup of tea and staring outside the window. Or, very practically, I might do something productive (and necessary) like cleaning something up. It might sound trivial but there is always the question:

How do I need to be with this?

Possible answers might be:

– take time right now and BE in it (which might be emotionally very taxing and potentially drag you down even more or  –  healing!)

– avoid it for now

– park it for later and follow the promise to attend it then (make a promise to yourself)

– witness it’s unfolding in the moment with self awareness and mindfulness.

Does this help?

What do you do or not do?

Finding the Gift after Loss

Sleeping angel hugging Lucy

Sleeping angel hugging Lucy

The epic journey of an emerging author:
Last week I wrote the afterword, this week I’m in tears writing the acknowledgment page. So many people believed in me more than I believed in myself.
The book is born. “Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple” is no longer just a document on my computer but a BOOK to be published within less than 2 weeks!

Without giving it all away, here is the last sentence of the Acknowledgment:
“Last, but not least, I want to acknowledge my inspiration for this book: my daughters Ananda Mae and Amya Mirica. This book would not exist without the experience you honoured me with.”

Photo: Nathalie Himmelrich

Everything will be ok in the end…

When is it the end?

When is it the end?

A friend of mine, dealing with the impending death of her mother, just wrote this quote by John Lennon on Facebook, which stirred some thinking in me…

I imagine many grieving people, depending on where they are in their journey, might not agree. You see, this is where semantic meaning creation starts.

  • What is the meaning of ‘end’?
  • Where does the ‘end’ start, where does it end?
  • What is ‘okay’ and what should/could/will it feel like?

Grief is a compound, intense, exhausting experience. It’s more than understandable that we want to avoid it, shortcut it, make it go away. Shock and numbness, in my view, are ways of the system to give you a little less than the full gamut to deal with. Avoiding might be the best way to deal with it in a given moment. 

3 years on from my daughters death I find myself more and more often in an ‘okay place’. I am no longer avoiding any emotions in relation to her death. Having said this, I’m totally aware that life is happening and life is this human experience that sometimes sucks and sometimes is beautiful beyond expression. I have also found my place in creating my meanings and I don’t have them to always be ‘happy ever after’. 

Resources for the Bereaved

Yesterday, Carly Marie from Project Heal and myself held another Grief Reflections Gathering on the topic of ‘The First Year of Grief’.
Here is the video:

We were asked for some resources on books and I’ve made a list, which you can find over here. I’ve also added a resource page on Grieving Parents Support Network, which will be updated regularly. If you’d like to add a resource, which you have found useful, please leave a comment there. Thank you. 

Depression and Suicide

robinwilliamsToday we all heard the news of Robin Williams death through suicide. How sad.

I do not read the news but I start my day by browsing Facebook, especially now that I’m in the last stretch of publishing my forthcoming book “Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple”. The news feed today was full of Robin Williams pictures, quotes, movie references… a display of people’s love and admiration for his craft and talent of having impact on people’s lives.

Reading about his death I noticed that unbeknownst to me he had depression and committed suicide.

I had multiple conversations with people who said things like: “He was such an inspiring character, it’s unbelievable that he was depressed” or “He was so successful, I can’t believe he committed suicide.”

It’s the question of theodicy, a topic I cover in my book:

The question of theodicy

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is the most common version of the theological question around why evil is possible in this world. Religious parents are faced with the question why a good God permits the manifestation of evil, like the death of their child.
Any variation of the post-loss “why” questions can become a way of amplifying loss. According to Dr. L. Michael Hall, by focusing on getting to acceptance as quickly as possible takes the semantic power out of the “why” question. If overused, the “why” question can become a way to amplify loss.

It is completely natural to want to make sense. Unfortunately, there is little to no chance of finding an answer that will quench the thirst for finding the answer that would explain the tragedy.

In regards to suicide from depression I have personal experience through my mother’s death which happened in the same way as Robin William’s death.

  • People suffer depression, no matter their IQ, EQ, the success or the amount of fame, friends, status, toys, things they possess.
  • People commit suicide no matter how much they are loved, cherished, admired, known, in the public eye (or not).
  • People, suffering from depression who commit suicide have people who love them and who have told them every day.
  • Depression is like a bottom-less cup where any love poured in evaporates, not through their ill-will but because of their depression.
  • In the moment of self-chosen death, many suicide victims have tunnel vision and do not think of the people they leave behind.

I had some in depth conversations with my mum following her first few suicide attempts. I was 19 weeks pregnant at the time and was furious that she would have me go through grief while being pregnant with the twin girls.

“I just wanted to end this pain, it had nothing to do with you or anyone else” – my mother’s words when we were talking about her previous attempts.

“I know grief would be hard at the beginning but it will get easier with time,” she added… I shook my head in disbelief. She must be out of her mind.

In retrospect she was ‘out-of-her-mind’ and she was able to see the bigger picture. She was right: It will get easier with time. 

 

Grief’s Vibration

Today I found out I knew someone personally on MH17.

My heart goes out to all the family, friends and people affected.

 

Shock again.

Nathalie Himmelrich Q15I know the people who are in shock, reeling with the unbelievable reality of never being able to see her again.

I know the people affected by her death.

I know their journey will be through grief’s barren land.

I feel for them. I feel with them.

Grief vibrates through time and space.

Just yesterday we spoke about the world wide impact of yet another tragedy involving a Malaysian plane with hundreds of innocent people. I was contemplating what the people would have felt or seen prior to their death. My husband, well read and informed as usual, explained that they wouldn’t have seen it coming and died instantly.

The day before yesterday, upon finding out about the tragedy and reading some news on the internet (which I rarely do, due to the unsettling impact is has on me) I had to stop reading a graphic description of what was found on the ground. I was thinking about the people on the ground, finding human debris in their backyard. They are affected too. They deal with trauma.

Knowing someone personally has brought this a bit closer to my heart. I know the people around her from the days I worked with her and them. The people affected through her lacking presence at work… her family. I’m in shock.

Grief vibrates through time and space.

Grief and its relatives has caught up with me. Not all of them are present. I’m not sad. I’m paralysed by shock and disbelief.

Grief vibrates with any loss previously experienced, wether we lost someone or something.

About being strong

Recently, upon a post “Choosing to remember reflect and re-connect 30 months and a rose for my mum” one of my supportive readers commented: “Be strong my friend”. I have to say, I’m neither strong nor weak. I just am. In the moment. With what is. Strong or weak is a measurement upon personal characteristics of what ‘being strong’ or ‘weak’ means to the observers.

I do neither wish a bereaved person to be strong, nor weak.
I do wish them to be allowed (by themselves and others) to be. Just be.

Losing Hope – 3 years ago…

The following I wrote 3 years ago:

pregnant belly in front of sunrise

The journey…

Yesterday I struggled not to lose hope.

As most of you know by now I’m pregnant with twin girls. Today it’s 26 weeks. I’m writing this note to you today as I cannot fathom talking about this more than is already happening in my head, and sooner or later one of you will ask me ‘How are the twins?’

In our 19 weeks scan we were told that one of our twins showed abnormalities in her kidneys. After our scan the girls got fed up of being called ‘twin 1’ and ‘twin 2’ and we chose Angel cards to give them ‘names in utero’. Since then we have been referring to them as Passion and Hope – very synchronistic as twin 2 chose Hope and she’s the one dealing with her malformed kidneys.

Basically the doctors and specialists couldn’t say for sure but mentioned that Hope showed cysts in both of her kidneys. They gave us worst case scenarios which I basically just didn’t take on, knowing that this is just one moment in time and things can change. Well, in the last 7 weeks they have not changed much and after our scan and specialist’s appointment yesterday they told us that it is very likely that Hope will be born with little or no kidney function. This might mean that she might live for hours/days/months and that the most likely neonatal management will be palliative care.

This time it hit me hard. This time I understood that there is no operation or care that could help a newborn with this condition. I also got to realise that as long as Hope is in utero the placenta is taking over the kidney function and she is still with me – for now.

I’m writing this note to you as I want you to know that my intent is to be with whatever this process has to offer me. I’m open to feel joy as both girls are moving inside me, and also the pain, hopelessness, sadness, grief, anger at the unfairness – basically whatever is coming, I’m open to it. Some days I might be sad, some days I might not, any day as it comes and goes.

I’m not looking for your advice or suggestions. Even though they are well meant, sentences like ‘At least you’ve got another healthy baby’ are also not mending the feelings I have for Hope. Don’t be afraid to talk to me about the situation, if you can handle and accept where I am at any point. Please accept my state, you don’t need to fix or solve anything for me. Some days I might want to talk about it, some days I might prefer not.

I have no expectation from you with this note besides that I want you to know where I am at. Pregnancy and birth is in many cases a joyous experience. At times it is for me and at times it is mixed with a lot of sadness and sorrow – at least for me…
I’m reminded of one of my dearest poems:

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Kahlil Gibran

We might lose Hope and still be reminded to never be able to lose hope.
All Love,
Nathalie & Chris, Hope & Passion

Teach – Educate – Show – Guide

Recently, there were many comments in the bereavement community about how some (many?) grieving parents feel a lack of support and care from friends, family and the medical support team. This can create additional painful emotions that add to the grieving process.

Dr. Claire from Return to Zero

Dr. Claire from Return to Zero

Today there was post on Return to Zero (the movie)’s Facebook page about Dr. Claire, the very caring doctor in the film in response to Tina’s comment:

This post today is for Tina. We need care givers to be more like Dr. Claire and less like her nurse. Maybe if the care givers see RTZ and spend some time with our community their hearts will open.

“The nurse asked me how many children I have and I said 5. I told her I have 3 living and twins that were born prematurely and passed away very soon after birth. Her response was “Oh they don’t count hon.”

“My heart shattered into a million pieces all over again. I wanted to scream at her and tell her yes they do count. Just because they are my Angel babies they still lived and grew inside of me. That they have a family that loves and misses them every single day. They have names and a birth date that we have a birthday celebration for every year.

“I didn’t scream though, I just waited until we were done and went and cried my eyes out in my car. I’m not strong enough yet to yell at someone being so heartless. But I know someday I will be.”

– Tina

quoteonbackground

It is Time.

It saddens my heart that grieving parents need to experience added pain to their loss. I am sorry for your loss, Tina and your secondary losses.

This is what I wrote as a comment to the post shared below:

I had amazing support on my journey and part of it was due to me clearly stating what it was we needed – as much as I knew at that time.
I believe the way to decrease the helplessness, lack of understanding and acceptance is by teaching medical support and society in general about HOW to be empathetic with the grieving.
Most of the time it isn’t lack of good intent but helplessness, overwhelm with the situation, lack of understanding and/or acceptance. Nurses, doctors, social workers might not have experienced what we have so they need us to tell and show them what it is we needed most.
All in all, I bow in respect to those who have chosen to be there in support
I know they do the best with the resources they have at the time. Let’s give them more resources to do better in future! 

Sadly, and often spoken from a place of emotionality, grieving parents not only use words that widen the gap between what they have experienced and what they would like to experience but also alienate those who we need to support us: our family, friends and the medical team. As much as I understand where they are coming from – and let me tell you I have been there too – I have come to understand a different power: the power of turning whatever I have experienced into something meaningful, to use the gift of any painful experience and transform it.
So, even if my care was an exception, which I don’t believe, how can we make it the rule?
By teaching, educating, showing and guiding those, who haven’t been in our shoes to help them understand and accept what it means to walk our path.
Are you joining me?