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Going Through the Motions
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Oct 07, 2001
When a young child dies, the impact of the loss on a parent is devastating. American society allows only a few days off from work to recognize the death, and then life is soon supposed to take on the look and feel of normalcy in a very rapid time. Grief doesnít work that way!

Many times, parents will say that entering the house where their child once walked and talked and played is an overwhelming grief. Their entire world has been torn apart, and nothing seems to make sense any more. Simple tasks such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, and combing hair are major chores for the parent who is experiencing the early stages of deep, unrelenting grief.

After a few weeks of feeling numb and just bumping around through the daily routine of life, parents realize that they are not functioning well. Decision-making is difficult. It is a major ordeal to organize thoughts enough to do the marketing and to try to put together a meal. It is extremely difficult to remember such things as walking the dog or remembering to pay the bills. A parent in deep grief realizes these difficulties exist, but feels powerless to change the situation.

Going through the motions of the everyday activities of living is quite difficult for a parent who has lost a young child. Because it is so totally out of the normal text of life for a child to die, life feels like it is whirling out of control. Nothing makes much sense. Yet, the fact remains that the daily activities of living must continue on in spite of the inability to function at regular speed. A parent is still required to perform duties at work and at home, when, in fact, most days it feels like all you can do is move through the motions, falling into bed at the end of the day in tears.

Going through the motions without feelings is quite normal in the early stages of grief following the death of a young child. We often fall into the trap of believing that we should snap to it and get back to normal living in a few weeks. When life has been torn apart, it takes time to pick up the broken pieces and move on. Grief is hard work and drains every area of our living.

Parents need to remind themselves each day that this lack of feeling joy and the inability to concentrate will not last forever. It is common for parents to look back on the first year following the death of their child and wonder how they managed to get through those first several months. They canít remember very much of anything. Life, in general, can be described as a big blur. Parents will say they lived in a fog and donít remember much of anything.

When does this numb feeling end? When does a parent begin doing more than just go through the motions? There is no exact time when enthusiasm for living begins to return. You will begin noticing subtle changes that will tell you that you are on the path to healing. Slowly, but surely, you will begin to keep appointments. You will remember to pay the bills on time. You will be able to make decisions about what clothes to wear and what food to prepare for the day. Getting out of bed in the morning is something you want to do. You will notice the beauty in a sunrise.

Part of a parent dies when a young child dies. You will feel like you are only going through the motions of living for a long time. Remember that grief is one step at a time, and one day at a time. Sometimes, we only manage one hour at a time. The good news is that each amount of time is a minute closer to your own personal journey of healing. And, that day will surely come!
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