Very early on after Shayna passed I knew I would need professional help to get through it. I was completely unprepared for Shayna to go. We had no idea this was coming. So in addition to the immense grief there was this shock that I cannot even describe. The shock is still there. I’ve always been interested in psychology so I was very familiar with the stages of dying, which are the same as the stages of grief in that they come and go and you cycle back around and you slowly progress. I’d need help with this.
Unfortunately, a friend has a daughter who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and she was preemptively working with a grief counselor. When the grief counselor heard of Shayna’s passing, she decided to come to her celebration of life which is where I met her. Ty and I decided to meet with Sheila together and did several times in those first few months. It was extremely helpful to have someone who could help us express our feelings to each other. Having that time where we knew we were going to sit down and talk about how we felt about Shayna’s passing was invaluable. It’s uncomfortable to talk about. It’s depressing, but it has to be done. We had to face it head on and together.
The organization that Sheila started also offers other services, some for surviving children, groups, etc. Kayla decided not to avail herself of their services. We went to the group for parents who have had children pass. I went once. Ty went a couple of times. Because of all of the other things I was doing, I didn’t find the groups so helpful. This is strictly personal, but I think part of it was the recognition of being in this club that I to this day do not want to be in. Sitting in a room and listening to eight or ten people tell their sad stories is too much. Knowing I am not alone is helpful for me. I can look at someone who has made it longer than you have and find hope I can indeed survive. I look at people who are not as far along the time line and it’s a reminder I have made it past the days I thought I could not survive. But there is something about too much of that that I just find draining. The group thing had limited benefit for me. Perhaps one day, when I’ve healed more, I will go back to help inspire others. For now, I’m done with it.
I also took advantage of one-on-one counseling offered by Hospice of Cincinnati. I went three or four times to meet with someone to confirm I was on the right track, pick up any tips I could pick up and to be able to be completely frank without having to filter for Ty’s benefit. The counselor there mostly listened as I analyzed myself and my path which was perfect. He’d mostly just sit and nod and take notes. I was able to tell him all my crazy feelings and thoughts, my sense of survivor’s guilt, my inability to protect Shayna, my lack of hope for the future, everything. He verified he had heard it all. I was not alone on this journey, at least I was not the first one to walk this path. Yes, these feelings are part of it. You’re doing the right things, hitting the right milestones… continue. After the second session, I felt like I was doing as well as could be expected, but I went back twice more just to be sure. When I was confident I was past the point where he could help me, I bid him farewell and said I’d see him again if I hit a rough patch that I could not handle on my own. That was probably close to six months ago.
Counseling is something I would recommend to just about everyone going through this type of trauma. It forces you to process your grief rather than just trying to power through. I’m a firm believer that not processing it doesn’t lead to healing, it’s just stuffing it away today where it will sit dormant until later when it will come back with a vengeance. Grief must be dealt with. You will deal with it today or tomorrow or in five years, but you will deal with it.