I am a mother – daughter – wife – sister – granddaughter. I love my family deeply, so when I lose a member of my family or a close friend, how do I move forward in my grief?

I can share my thoughts with you on this subject as a woman who has lost 2 children in two very different ways, my mother, grandparents, and close friends. Some may have lost more people in their lives and some less. It is not how many people in your lives you have lost, but in how you react to their loss.

Some people try to soften the impact of the loss with words, such as they passed away, passed on, were laid to rest, slipped away…my children died. It was not a gentle passing, it was raw, and deep, and with great suffering on my part as well as my family. At some time in our lives we will all have to deal with grief on a very personal level. We as a society do not like to talk about or deal with death openly. Not many of us have the emotional tools to deal with grief. When we are suddenly thrown into the deep pain of loss, we are so overwhelmed. I know I was. I was so young, only 21 years old when my first son died in a car accident. I was driving. I had deep guilt, along with empty arms. My grief consumed me for 4 long years. I could not move forward, I merely existed in the pain from day to day.

Since that first loss I have lost another child, my mother, my grandparents, and close friends. When someone asks how I have moved through my grief, I can only say one day at a time. I lived so long in the darkness of depression, I do not want to go there ever again, it’s ugly. When someone comments to me “I never knew” I know I have succeeded in moving forward in my grief. I say this because I choose to live my life day to day in the present, not the past. I would give anything, especially my own life, to bring my children back, but I can’t do that. So I choose to go on and see the joy life can bring to my daily life. I can choose to be sad and cry and withdraw from life, or choose to find happiness in what my life is now.

So how do I move forward with my own grief? The answer, although painful, is really quite simple. I had to become bigger than my own pain. How did I do that, and how do I continue to do that? Good question. Simple answer, baby steps.

Grieving is a process of moving through the pain. I had to accept that feeling the hurt was necessary, and ok. The hardest part was to allow myself to let the pain flow back out of my being. I was afraid to let go of the pain and feel nothing. I felt if I was feeling the pain, I was doing what I was supposed to do. The pain became a part of me, and when it was time to let it go, I was afraid of letting it go, afraid of the unknown. Who was I without pain? It had been my constant companion for so long that letting it go was frightening. How do I move forward without pain? Can I?

I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “ok now I am done with the pain.” I just chose to quit feeling sorry for myself basically. It took a wise person asking me who I truly was feeling sorry for? Was I feeling sorry for my children who were gone and no longer suffering, or was I feeling sorry for myself? Was I feeling sorry for my surviving children who will never know their brothers, yes. Was I causing my children more pain by being stuck in my grief and being so sad, yes. Could I change that, YES!

So as I reflected upon my life and surviving the deaths of my children, I vowed to become bigger than my pain to become the mother, daughter, wife and sister the rest of my family loved and missed so dearly.

The hardest part was allowing myself to love deeply again, without fear. Not such an easy task. I quit holding back and got involved in life again. I allowed myself to find joy in the simple things with my children, we played together again, and I found peace from within. I could sit in the swing on my mothers back porch with her and watch the sunset and enjoy it. I would take walks along the river with my husband, and watch the kids and dog play, and smile with my heart and face.

So what at first was hard became easy. I was able to move forward in my grief by living my life one day at a time. Some days I would not move forward, even a little backward, but I did grow stronger each day. As time went by the good days started outnumbering the bad days. I am moving forward with my grief, on a daily basis, by just living my life in the present.

As I was moving through my grief I wrote down my thoughts and feelings, and out of these journals came a book, written 20 years ago called Love & Courage – Becoming Bigger Than Our Pain. I pulled it off the market after 2.5 years, as I was not strong enough to continue marketing it all on my own. I have now added a chapter of letters of love from readers of the first edition, and some poems and songs, and published the second edition. This time the title has changed to Becoming Bigger Than Our Pain - Thru Love & Courage. I named the book this because it is not MY pain, or YOUR pain, it is OUR pain. And in our daily lives don’t we all strive to become bigger than our pain? And to become bigger takes much love and great courage.

Sandy Brosam, Author
Becoming Bigger Than Our Pain

Author's Bio: 

Sandra Brosam is the mother of four children, two healthy young adults, and two children who died. Her first born died at age 2 in a car accident, and then her fourth child died of cancer at 17 months old. In her journey through the pain she found many people wanted to help her, but didn’t know how. They were as lost in the pain as she was. What started out as a journal of healing grew into a book of understanding pain, from this young woman living in a small town in Eastern Washington.