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Manage the pain of grief in your own way after losing a child

Manage the pain of grief in your own way after losing a child

Dealing and coping with loss can be one of the most devastating experiences a person will go through--especially the loss of a child. There are many emotions a parent will experience all at once that can seem overwhelming, incapacitating and even paralyzing.

Even though grief may not physically show a parent’s wounds from loss, the wounds from grief run deep and will take time to heal. Parents will manage grief in their own way, in their own time and at their own pace. It is vital for a parent to recognize that this process is a process that will take time.

Finding healthy ways to cope and deal can be an integral part of a parent’s healing process. The pain of grief can be a debilitating one, robbing a person of joy and happiness. Learning how to put the pain of grief towards a positive purpose can change the outcome of the grieving process, so an individual can experience joy and happiness again.


Do

Do allow yourself time to grieve

Take the time necessary to grieve. As Americans, we live in such a rushed society. Allowing yourself time to go through your emotions--whether you like it or not--is very important. At times, these emotions may feel like constant waves crashing down. In the beginning stages of grief, take time off from work to be able to go through these emotions. Jumping right back into work immediately will only masque the grief for so long.

It is okay to grieve, so take the time to do it. Taking the time to heal is like wearing a helmet when riding a bike. When a person falls and hits his head, the head will be protected from the fall. Time is like a helmet in the grief process. Giving yourself the time needed can help
lessen the blow of when more life comes at you. Time can be the one thing that equips a grieving person in his/her process to be ready for when more storms come again.

Do seek counsel or parent groups

The loss of a child is a devastating life event that not many of us are able to deal with on our own. Seeking professional help, such as counselors or therapists who specialize in child loss, is recommended for parents to develop healthy coping strategies.

Another group that may be helpful are parent groups that have experienced child loss. Sometimes, being around other parents who have been through loss can help another get through their loss. Parents sharing their loss with other parents who understand can be very healing.

Do let others help

After the funeral is the time that most people want to help. If someone offers help, take it. Allow others to help you because you will need it. You may not know what you need, but allowing others to help you cook, clean and run errands is the best help you can receive when you are going through your process.

Do support each other

When a parent is grieving the loss of a child, it is not only your loss but your spouse’s loss as well. It may be difficult to be someone else’s support system when you are hurting, but it is essential to try and support each other the best as possible. Recognizing each other’s needs, such as providing a listening ear, giving a hug, giving space or asking how the other person is doing, can be very healing.

Do get back out there

Leaving the house can seem like a monumental task to a grieving parent. Try to always get out of the house at least once a day. Whether it is to buy gas or a gallon of milk, getting yourself out of the house may seem like a little step. These baby steps will help you take the bigger steps later. Getting back out there and starting back to work can be one of the most difficult tasks after your loss, but these are important steps in a person’s healing process.


Don't

Do not rush through grief

Grief is a necessary emotion that we have after we experience the loss of a loved one.
Grief is not a weakness, but a necessary process a parent needs to go through. Grief is messy, can be painful and changes a person’s life forever. It is necessary to take the time to grieve.

Grief can’t be fast-forwarded, rushed or skipped over. When you try to rush through grief, it doesn’t make the process quicker, but actually longer. Taking the necessary steps through grief will actually help in the overall healing process.

Do not make drastic life changes

All of the grief books say not to make any major life changes immediately following the loss of a loved one. They say to give it at least one year. It is not recommended to move, have a baby, or change jobs or schools immediately after loss. Routine is one of the only consistent things in a person’s life after loss. When this routine is changed or disrupted, it not only makes life harder, but dealing with grief even harder.

The rule of thumb is to keep it simple for a good year. Instincts may tell you to move, avoid or leave the pain behind. Making these life changes will not change the grief or make things better. It will only make your grief more difficult to cope and deal with.

Do not be hard on yourself

After the loss of a child, parents will hear the term, the “new normal.” It can be a disturbing feeling that the life as you once knew it, no longer exists. Parents can’t go back to the life they once lived, but now must learn how to live this new life that is so heartbreaking and unfamiliar.

It is like you are getting acquainted with a stranger in your own skin. Even though the new normal can be a scary, unfamiliar process, it is vital to not be so hard on oneself. Some days you will take one step forward to only take four steps back. This is the process of the
process. And to expect to smoothly sail through the grief process is unrealistic.

Do not judge one another

It is a known fact that men and women grieve differently. A woman will not grieve like a man and vice versa. So to expect a spouse to grieve in the same way is not realistic. Don’t judge how one another grieves. Just because a husband doesn’t talk about his child or go to grief groups, doesn’t mean he is not hurting.

A woman may show her emotions differently by crying, talking or going to grief groups. Each individual grieves in their own way. No one way is wrong or right. The grief process has two processes, one that is together and one that is individual. It is important to recognize how the other person grieves and allow each other to grieve in their own way, without judging one another.

Do not ignore grief

Grief is a crazy process. One might try to get away from grief by trying to run, hide and avoid it. One can only try to run, hide, be busy and avoid grief for so long--until it catches up to you and you will have to deal with it one way or another.

It is critical to deal with grief and not ignore it or try to bury it. Don’t try to numb your pain by engaging in unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol or drugs. These are only temporary measures that will not bring you long-term healing, but only more brokenness.

Grief can be like a broken leg. Let the broken leg heal and it is possible to walk again. Keep walking on the broken leg without letting it heal completely, and you will have a lifelong limp. It becomes a choice: Do you want to walk or do you want to live with a limp?


Summary
Jumping cartoon

The grief process of child loss is a very challenging process. There will be a roller coaster ride of emotions that parents experience and must learn how to cope and deal with as they go through the process. There is no manual that tells parents how to grieve.

By taking the time necessary to grieve, it allows a parent to develop healthy coping strategies, instead of diving into life not fully equipped. Time allows healing to occur and helps lessen the blows of life when life happens.

Most of all, learning how to make loss part of your life can be integral in the healing process. Life does not have to end after the loss of a child. Learning how to get back into life allows life to be lived once again, and not allow grief to rob you of the joys of life. There will be more storms of life that come. Learning how to dance in the rain can change the outcome of a person’s grief so they can experience joy and happiness again.


More expert advice about Loss of a Child

Photo Credits: Sadness by soupstock via BigStock; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Heather GillisAuthor of “Waiting for Heaven”

Heather Gillis works part-time as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and is founder of Bowen’s Hope a ministry to help kidney kids and their families. She is author of “Waiting for Heaven: Finding Beauty in the Pain and the Strug...

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