I don't have much close experience with death. I lost people I loved in the past, but they were not generally a part of my daily life, and so losing them made me cry but didn't impact much of a change in my day to day life. I remember hearing people in grief talking about "shoving down" or "pushing aside" their pain. And I thought, "how terrible, you've got to deal with it." Now I think I have a better grasp on what was meant.
There are many times throughout daily life that I cannot grieve. It's not an option. I have to be able to function for my family. If I'm having a rough day, I can't stay in bed or watch TV all day, Emma and Hazen still need to eat and be cared for. When holidays come around I have the urge to skip out, or hide at home, but I really want Emma and Hazen to feel special so I make plans for fun. When my husband is having a down day, he still goes to work, he has to support his family, he still reaches out to me to offer his hurting wife comfort, even when he needs comforting himself. If I see a Mom with 2 preschool aged kids and a baby being carried in a sling while I'm at Target, I can't start wailing in the aisle, we still need milk before I can go home. (In these particular cases I usually do turn and run in the other direction though)
When Jairus died, many people commented that Emma and Hazen would see Mark and I through this, that they'd play a big role in our moving forward, that it was a blessing to have them. In the initial days and weeks I have to admit that I did not fully agree with those comforters. Don't hear me wrong, immediately we saw what great miracles the lives of our first two children were, we were more grateful for them than was possible before their brother died. We love them with such a deep love that I can't picture a day without them. But in the first days it was extremely painful to know what the day you give birth is supposed to be like,m we'd done it twice before and knew the intense joy and bond new parents feel with their new babies. The reward for labor of holding your new child in your arms. Knowing what we were supposed to be experiencing but never would with Jairus was a deep sting.
But Emma and Hazen continue to live out what people said they would do. They bring us so many opportunities to smile and laugh and be happy. They give hugs and comfort as they are able to. And they give us goals and purposes through out each day. Because they still need us to be their parents, even as we mourn the loss of the brother they never knew. And so everyday, I get up. And I hold them and feed them and love on them. Sometimes it's really hard, sometimes I cannot grieve because Emma and Hazen need my attention and my time, and sometimes I struggle to be present for them because my grief has caught up with me.
My point is just that, yes, allowing yourself to grieve is extremely important, but it's not always an option as you go through your day to day life. It's a tough balance. Trying to "find time to grieve" and also trying to "keep on keeping on". Sometimes you don't have the ability to stop life and deal with your loss, sometimes you have to shove it way down inside you so you can function. If it doesn't sound fun, it's not. Its exhausting. But sometimes it's necessary.
The problem I then find is when things have been pushed aside too long, when I haven't made time to grieve and allow any healing to happen, the pain is building up without my realizing it. And it often comes out in more intense ways than I would've expected, or my pain becomes directed at things that seem so trivial and unrelated to our trauma. I might break down in sobs or start yelling, I might be crabby at everyone around me or cling onto those I am closest to. Maybe I'll be able to watch my older kids playing in the nursery with no real problem, but then seeing bird eggs makes me weep in the front yard (we've actually had lots of run-ins with eggs lately, but I'll get to on a different day).
So if someone you know is walking through a valley, remember that as they are trying to deal with the craziness and pain of their loss, they are also trying to relearn how to do the day to day things most of us take for granted. They're learning to go on, even on the hard days. They are trying to find a balance between grief and healing and getting by. It's a long process. Don't let them walk it alone. We'd never have come so far without the friends who stepped in to help us learn to live again. Your friend needs you too.