Regina Ellis is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer of the Children’s Cancer Association (CCA), the only organization of its kind in the nation, working to position joy as best practice in pediatric hospitals across the nation. Established in 1995 after Regina’s daughter Alexandra died of cancer, CCA delivers JoyRx to seriously ill children, teens, and their families when they need more than medicine. What started around Regina’s kitchen table has now grown to be one of the largest children’s health organizations in the Pacific Northwest with award-winning programs provided at no cost to families in all 50 states.
When you are unmoored by the death of a child or another beloved person, here are some ideas to consider:
- Grieving is the ugliest, hardest, messiest and most unpredictable emotion we may ever experience — it’s okay to be unkempt, unpolished or out-of-service to others (except your living children).
- Assure yourself that you can and will survive the weight of grief.
- Deep grief = deep love
- Identify self-soothing strategies. The riptide of grief is omnipresent so find two comforting activities that will ease the pain you carry (i.e., buy a plush heating blanket to wrap around yourself and sit wrapped in this warmth, exercise or take a wilderness walk). Do them often.
- Find the survivors — seek the helpers and encouragers who have faced a similar loss. They can offer unspoken compassion, experience and comfort and be powerful beacons of hope.
- Teach your family and friends: remind them to continue to say the name of the person you are missing — tell me stories and knowledge the dead person I think about and ask me what life is like without them. I am comforted when you speak of them. I will tell you if I need something else.
- Sleep, sleep and sleep.