What Is Constructive Grieving?
Most people are familiar with the five stages of grief developed by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the late 60s: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Everyone experiences grief in different ways and in different timeframes. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The five stages of grief are not a step-by-step process but is a tool to help us identify the emotions going on in our heart and our head.
No matter how intense our grief is, it is temporary. There is life after grief if we acknowledge our emotions and work through them instead of trying to stop them. This process is called constructive grieving.
Grigory's Adoption Story
On December 4, 2006 in St. Petersburg, Russia, we finalized Grigory's adoption into our family. We left Russia before a very late first snowfall and arrived home in Texas on December 25, 2006. Grigory's 10th birthday came six days later. I would tell Grigory that the whole world celebrated his birthday as a holiday with fireworks.
Justin and Grigory became very close brothers and best friends. We all loved to see peoples faces when they found out that Justin and Grigory were the same age and then asked if they were twins. "No, they are three months apart." The surprised look on the peoples faces was priceless. We would eventually explain.
Justin was born four years into our marriage. Over the next few years I had four miscarriages, the pregnancies ended around the 8-10 week mark. The doctors couldn't find a reason since I was in good health. I was heartbroken because I wanted to have more children even though I was getting to the end of my child bearing years.
Grigory, age 9, was the answer to our prayers. We bonded at first sight. The orphanage told us that Grigory had a strong desire to be part of a loving family. He entered the orphanage at age three when his mother passed away. Per his adoption records, his mother was two weeks older than me. God answered our prayers by giving me another son and Justin a brother.
Our adoption experience was another God incident similar to my "Martha in Pittsburgh" experience. To read about my Martha blog, click here. I'll save our adoption process for a future blog.
My Child Loss Story
By July 2015, I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and going through my chemo treatments. Justin and Grigory just graduated high school from our homeschool Hope Christian Academy so all my time was spent running my husband's (at the time) business. The boys began working in our family business.
Because of my health and the busyness of our business, we didn't see the struggles Grigory was going through until a month or two before my hospitalization for my double mastectomy. We realized he was hanging around some bad influencers which we could never seem to meet. Grigory would disappear for long periods of time with no contact.
In March of 2016, due to heart issues from the chemo, I was admitted to the hospital a few days prior to my double mastectomy to get rid of fluid around my heart and lungs.
The day before my surgery, my husband brought Grigory to my hospital room to see if I could get through to him after an argument they had at the house. I could see Grigory didn't want to talk about what was going on. I made him look me in the eyes while I said "Grigory, there is nothing on this earth that you can do to make us stop loving you. We will always love you no matter what but we do not like your bad behavior. What can we do to help you stop the bad behavior and encourage you to make better choices?" Grigory's answer was "I don't know."
Since I had to get lab work done, my husband took Grigory back home which was ten minutes away. A few hours later my husband returned to my hospital room to tell me Grigory committed suicide and was gone.
My world stopped. I was in shock. I wondered why I couldn't cry. Was I a bad mom for not crying? I asked questions that I can't remember now. A nurse came in and asked me if I wanted a sedative. I told her no thank you. I guess everyone expected me to go into hysterics so they had medication ready.
Don't get me wrong. I grieved and my heart hurt knowing I wouldn't be able to see my Grigory, hug my Grigory, talk with my Grigory and laugh with my Grigory. My beloved Justin would not have his brother, his best friend, to hang out with any more. At age 19, Grigory's life on earth was no more.
I don't know how to explain it but a peace came over me as if the Holy Spirit was letting me know Grigory was in Heaven, happy and free from his pains and struggles. I would see him again when God calls me home. That provided me so much peace and comfort knowing Justin and I would get to see Grigory again.
How Grigory's Death Became A Blessing
Since Grigory was an organ donor, someone received the gift of sight after he died. At the time, the organization asked if we wanted to meet the recipient but I wasn't up to it after losing Grigory and dealing with my breast cancer treatments. I was happy and thankful that Grigory's eyes could benefit someone in need.
Every year when March rolls around we don't acknowledge his death but we celebrate his Heavenly Birthday or as I like to call it Grigory's Angelversary. We love to share happy and funny stories about the ten wonderful years Grigory blessed our lives.
One of my fondest stories is from his favorite Scout Master and second mom. Grigory enjoyed working with the new Boy Scouts that joined our troop and encouraged them to regularly work on their merit badges. One young Boy Scout thought earning his Eagle Scout badge was out of his reach but Grigory kept encouraging him to go for it. After Grigory died, this Boy Scout told the same story at his own Eagle Scout Ceremony. It still brings tears of joy to my eyes each time I share this story. You never know what small acts of kindness can have a big impact on peoples lives.
Experiencing Growth After Grief
One of my goals to honor Grigory's memory is to start, or partner with, a non-profit organization to help foster and adoption families transition into a harmonious family. This transition is not easy in the beginning but it is so important for these children to be able to trust again, feel loved, and understand they are in a safe environment.
My heart goes out to the older children who get overlooked and age our of foster care and orphanages. These teens have the same needs as the younger children: to belong to a loving family and live in a stable and safe environment.
We were so blessed to have Grigory in our lives for almost ten years and I know without a doubt that Grigory felt loved, safe, and could trust us. Homeschooling and Boy Scouts were influential in building his self-esteem and confidence. He went from being unable to make eye contact or participate in a conversation to looking someone in the eye, offering a firm handshake and carrying on an intelligent conversation.
Here are some ways you can honor or memorialize a loved one after death.
- Plant a tree in their name.
- Support a cause that was close to their heart
- Start a new tradition
- Place a memorial bench in their favorite spot
- Share their stories and photos
- Start a charity organization in their name
- Participate in a charity walk/run on their behalf
- Frame something they've written
- Complete what they can't
- Make a memorial quilt from their clothes or photos
- Create a scholarship in their name
- Compose a memorial song
- Get a tattoo of an image or quote of theirs
- Live a life of worthiness
Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? Take the time and manner you need to work through your emotions of the five stages of grief. Once you get into the acceptance stage, look into ways you can honor or memorialize your loved one. You will start to experience growth as you focus on the positive impact your loved one had on others.
If you are struggling to get to the acceptance stage and it's been over six months, it might be time to talk to a licensed counselor to discover the reason why.
Hunt the good stuff, find the humor, keep positive, and focus on your blessings. God can bring good out of every situation!