by Grace May
I know grief very well, the heartbreaking grief you experience when the people closest to you die. I lost my beautiful mother to cancer years ago, which I wrote about for The Motherlove Project. After that, my beloved grandmother, who had always looked out for me ever since I was a baby, passed away. Then the worst thing to ever happen to any mother happened to me. Both of my children died. How can a mother ever get over such heartbreaking grief and still survive? I was a stay-at-home mom for twenty years until both of my children were dead, and I had become literally nothing.
There is no word to describe a parent who has lost their child. The word orphan is used for children who’ve lost both of their parents. Widow or widower if you’ve lost your spouse. There is no word to identify who I was now. I had lost my own identity along with my precious sons.
My husband and I had already experienced fifteen years of anticipatory grief, ever since both of our boys were first diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. But nothing prepares you for losing your child. It’s horrific no matter how it happens. And so my grief journey began when my younger son died two years after his older brother did. I noticed that I was not grieving in the same way as my husband. He still had his same identity at work. I knew then that I had to follow my own path, wherever it led to, alone.
We all grieve in different ways, and I spent the next five years just trying to survive and was very proud of myself for navigating this grief journey on my own. I never asked to go on this journey, but I have no choice except to travel this path. I couldn’t save my two sons, but I was the only one who could save myself.
In the beginning, I shared all of the new things I was spending my time doing on my private Facebook account, to show my family and friends that I was okay, that I was surviving my grief. That they didn’t need to worry about me. However, most of those people just didn’t understand, and couldn’t begin to grasp what I was really going through. It made me so angry because the only thing I really wanted was my sons back, but of course, that couldn’t happen. They had all their children alive with them, so how could they possibly know how I was feeling?!
It has been said that grief is just the love you feel for someone who has passed away. I decided to channel that love to myself instead, and was determined to find helpful self-care activities. I had started coloring as a way to relieve stress. I couldn’t really draw, I was not an artist, but I liked to be creative. So I found coloring to be the perfect thing for me since I could be creative with choosing the colors, but still be detail-oriented with coloring inside the lines and creating patterns using the colors.
At some point, I realized that I had to share my grief with others who were also grieving. That would be the only way I could feel supported on my grief journey. I had been grieving my two sons for five years when the 2020 pandemic began. For Bereaved Mother’s Day 2020, I started my microblog on Instagram called My Whole Nest to share self-care ideas with other grieving mothers and empty-nesters. I am very grateful for all the support I received from the grief community on Instagram.
That summer I discovered grief art and dived right in! I found as many free virtual art classes as I could sign up for. I knew I was not a good artist, but I told myself that I could become a grief artist! I can express my grief by creating art! It doesn’t need to look perfect or be pretty. Grief is definitely not perfect or pretty.
While so many people around the world were passing away from COVID-19 and others were going stir-crazy with cabin fever during quarantine, I was learning, growing, and flourishing online with my grief art. I found so many virtual art classes taught by amazing women. I was inspired by their talent and grateful for their willingness to help me. At first, I took so many classes in so many different forms of art, eventually figuring out which mediums I preferred and which instructors I liked the best. I built a virtual network of female artists and teachers for myself to gain as much knowledge as I could.
I think I had gone back to my comfort zone of being a good student, just like I was before becoming a wife and mother. I signed up for online foreign language classes. I took virtual exercise classes, cooking classes, and business classes. I found there were so many free online resources available. I took advantage of as much as I could to fill up my days during quarantine. I had gone from being a stay-at-home mom, to suddenly becoming nothing, and then growing into a stay-at-home student of life.
I know some people were thinking, “Nobody wants to hear you talking about your grief all the time.” However, that really was not the case at all, because I found a huge grief community on Instagram who likes talking about their grief and likes to hear me share about mine! I love sharing my grief art and found that people I didn’t even know were being so supportive of me online! In return, I try to be supportive of others on Instagram as well.
Recently, I have been concentrating more on my writing. It feels good to write about my grief experiences and share them with people who actually understand what I’m going through. I’m very excited to continue learning, growing, and sharing my grief journey on Instagram. I’ve always tried to make sure our sons lived a full life despite their short number of years. Now that they’re gone, my job is to live a full life for myself.
For more information about Grace, you can check out her Instagram page.
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