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The unfinished jigsaw puzzle and the waves of grief.

Grieving the loss of a child


“Grief is the last act of love we give to our loved one.

Where there is deep grief there is great love".

Chaplin Robert Orr


Two and a half years ago I watched as my niece took her last breath, she was just 10 years old. This week would have been her 13th birthday, her teen day, and we would have celebrated this milestone with her. Instead i've been pondering the what ifs and wondering what she'd look like now, how much of a sassy teen she'd be, what she would want for her birthday.


As I write this, at 4am unable to sleep, as thoughts of her run around in my mind, I have come to realise that I am attempting to fill the void. My thoughts are in a cycle which moves from memories to imagination, at the point that the memories end the void begins and I visualise the answers to these questions in an attempt to fill the gap.




Like a jigsaw puzzle that was started before realising the remaining pieces are missing, I am left with frustration, anger, and sadness that it will never be complete.

However, my thoughts this evening have turned towards gratitude. As I witness my 13 year old son change from a boy into a young man I have found myself saying, "stop getting so big so fast", but i'm missing the here and now, i'm missing the fact that I do get to see him grow, I do get to see him turn into a young man and then an adult, no imagination needed. I admit, some part of me feels guilt, because I do get to witness his jigsaw puzzle as more pieces are added. This is all part of my grief, and grief has no clear direction. In grief every emotion is felt in any order at any time.



My guilt also rises up if I talk about my niece without crying, like it somehow means that I have forgotten or don't care, but like the ocean the waves of grief are never consistent.


I stood in the ocean last week, some large waves nearly knocked me off my feet, they didn't, I just wobbled, and then the sea temporarily went calm before the waves returned. This is exactly where I am in my grief, the waves no longer knock me down but they do occasionally, like this week, hit me hard and cause me to lose balance.....and that's ok. In grief we can wobble, we can fall, we can get back up and feel fine.


And so in conclusion, as I release my thoughts and emotions into this blog, my realisation is that my grief is now made up of imagination for the what ifs, as I attempt to finish the jigsaw puzzle with pieces that don't fit. My mind still struggles to accept that it will forever remain unfinished, but if I change my perspective, I can feel gratitude for the part of the puzzle that I did get to see, the part that also contains pieces of me as we built them together, the parts that are now etched in my mind as memories. I will move through this darkness and I will never stop seeing her light.


"Through the darkness of grief we can see the light of love which transcends death. And with the pain can come gratitude for the gift of time we had". Chaplin Robert Orr



Notes: If you are grieving please allow your grief to be released in the way your body requires, do not punish yourself for your feelings, acknowledge and embrace them. Speak to someone, write, draw, make music, allow your grief to be expressed. Seek professional help from a therapist or counsellor if you are struggling. The waves of grief will not crash around you so hard forever.

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