How to Cope With the Death of a Child
Coping with the death of a child is the most difficult thing a parent will ever have to do. I know because fifteen years ago my infant son died. While I am not a grief counselor who has spent hundreds of hours helping others overcome their immense sorrow, I have lived through the healing process. I faced the most painful loss, and, somehow, I emerged from that grief-ridden state with a new perspective on life. This perspective is neither better nor worse, it is simply different. The fact that I lived through those experiences makes me knowledgeable in ways I never expected and provides me the opportunity to share with others undergoing similar situations so that they may know they are not alone.
While there is no one “right” way to grieve, there are some things that I learned through my journey that may prove useful to others.
- Don’t be afraid to be sad. You just had something traumatic happen to you in your life; it’s okay if you want to cry. Of course, it may be uncomfortable for you to cry in public, but you can still cry in private if you need to. One of the first steps in overcoming grief is admitting you are grieving in the first place (just like in overcoming addiction). Acknowledge that you are sad. It’s normal. Now, deal with it. It has been over fifteen years since my son died, and you know what, sometimes I still cry when I think about him. The difference is that now my tears are not uncontrollable sobs that leave me emotionally drained for hours on end. You, too, will get to this point, but it will take time. Which leads me to my next point:
- There is no express lane for overcoming grief. There is no magic formula (not even this one) that will keep you from having to deal with your pain. This was the most difficult lesson for me to learn. Being a glass-is-half-full kind of girl, I really struggled with being depressed. Thus, I needed to learn to be a little selfish during this time in order for me to work through my pain in my own way. If I needed some “me” time, I took it. Usually this came in the form of running, but sometimes I just went into my closet and had a good cry-out. Find something that offers you a moment of emotional relief and allow yourself the luxury of time to pursue that activity.
- Realize that everyone has their own timeline for dealing with grief. For married couples, this is the hardest part of grieving. When we are married we often expect our spouses to be strong for us. However, when you both are grieving, this is next to impossible. Some days you may be the one holding the house together while your spouse barely leaves the bed. Other days your spouse may make you laugh at an unexpected – yet welcome – moment, giving you the strength you need to crawl out from under the covers and face the day. But, there will also be days when one of you resents the other for his or her ability to function somewhat normally. You may become angry about your spouse’s need to pursue his or her own interests. These are the moments that you need to stop and realize that grieving is a very personal process. Each of us has emotional wiring that is uniquely engineered for dealing with these situations. Allow each other the freedom to move through the grieving process in the manner best suited for you both. Be kind, gentle, and forgiving during this time. Doing so will not only help move the process along, but it will also cause your bond to deepen, which ultimately will lead to a stronger marriage and more realistic relationship.
- Don’t try to do it alone. Don’t underestimate the value of advice and experience from others who have traveled the path before you. No matter what your circumstances, chances are someone you know has already dealt with a similar situation and can provide hope and insight. Of course, the problem may be finding someone relatable. Be careful not to judge; remember that everyone handles grief differently. The key is to remember that you are not alone on your journey and there are always others around you who are willing to offer insight that may help you move to the next step in your personal grieving process.
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Sometimes grief is just too overwhelming and the burden becomes too great to deal with on your own. Don’t be afraid to talk to a counselor. Usually, talking to someone who is detached from the situation can help put things back in perspective. Sometimes we are just simply too immersed in our grief to be able to have a realistic point of view on what is happening around us. Obtaining an unbiased, levelheaded opinion can help keep you from making a rash decision that you might not have otherwise made.
Finally, don’t neglect to look into other, less obvious, resources that are available for coping with grief. Books, videos, and websites all endeavor to provide insight and advice in a relatable manner for individuals. Don’t get discouraged if one method doesn’t work for you. Instead, simply put it aside for another day and move on to the next suggestion. Just remember to be kind to yourself and those around you. The best gift you can give yourself is the time you need to heal. Only by facing your grief and allowing yourself the luxury of acknowledging your pain and loss will you be able to heal completely.
Thanks so much for reading!
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