"I tell people who come to me who have lost their children, their spouses, that the first thing they have to do is get real with themselves. When you are grieving and in pain, it can be very confusing. You don't know who you are without that person. Or who you want to be."
She had to wade through her what-ifs and myriad emotions. The first time she laughed, she covered her mouth, feeling guilty for allowing joy into her dark world. The hardest part was realizing she needed a new life. People can't move forward because "most are trying to go back to a life they no longer have and it's like trying on clothes that don't fit — and trying and trying. The moment they realize their old identity is no longer the identity they have, the faster they will re-enter life."
It's easy to become overwhelmed, she said. "We take small steps so we don't alert the fear center of our brains. One thing at a time."
Berrien moved closer to family. She wanted to savor motherhood, especially after losing her son, Tookie. But she needed lots of support. She went to counseling, which had helped when she finally tried it after the baby died. She ate when she could and walked to build energy. Later, she co-founded a group called Soul Widows and a center, The Respite, focused on helping those who grieve heal.
Berrien, a certified grief coach, said you can keep moving forward without locking the loved one who died in your past. "You don't have to get over that person," she said.
She makes sure Ella, 4, knows her dad through photos and videos. Grieving doesn't happen on a timeline — "Six weeks, get back to work" — or end like the chapter of a book.
Berrien remarried and has two stepchildren, but she never let go of the people who loved her first husband. They tell "Brian stories." She also longs for stories about her son. She and her sister talk about who the baby might have become. It's comforting.
Rasmussen remarried, and between her and her new spouse they have four girls. "It's a great life," she said. "We live life in the present."
But they have never stopped honoring the past.
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