child loss

How to Cope with Child Loss (Part 1)

Losing a child may be the hardest thing you’ll ever go through. I know, because I lost my son just shy of his third birthday from a rare disease called Leigh’s Disease.

It was the worst thing I have ever experienced.

Initially everyone sends their sympathies, but as time goes by, people expect that you’ll move on from the pain even when you’re still grieving.

Friends avoid bringing up the subject, afraid they’ll cause more tears. Family may encourage you to “get over it” (WHAT?!) and enjoy the children you already have.

Sometimes it seems like no one understands child loss, except those who have been through it.

So how do you cope with the grief?

Here are a few ways to start the healing journey:

1. Don’t rush the healing process.

By forcing yourself to “feel better” instead of feel the pain, you’ll often just delay the inevitable: dealing with your grief. I’ve known people who avoided their sorrow and found themselves struggling with unresolved grief years later.

So here’s my advice to save you from therapy twenty years later: Let yourself feel the sorrow. Take time to grieve.

This is horribly hard and horribly necessary.

There will be days you’d rather escape from the pain, instead of face it head-on. But believe me, if you let yourself face the grief, it eventually leads to healing.

2. Find meaningful support.

You can’t go through this alone. Don’t even try.

If you think you can handle a great loss by yourself, please listen to me now and believe me later: You can’t do this on your own.

Grief groups and counselors are your shoulder to cry on. Please don’t think that they are your last resort. Instead, consider them your first resource.

Even if you only try it once, you’ll likely find some gem of help. Maybe it’s the only safe place you can share your feelings or a chance to connect with others going through similar pain. Either way, these groups and professionals are typically experienced dealing with grief.  They can be a listening ear or a sounding board for your feelings.

Support groups provide a safe place for you and your family to talk about grief, such as those led by the Center for Grieving Children. Grief groups for families and children can be found nationwide through the National Alliance for Grieving Children.

3. Evaluate who is helpful (and who is not).

Friends and family can be invaluable sources of support.

But let me be honest here: only you can judge whether their help is actually helpful.

Listen, we love our family and friends. I’ve known some people who are incredibly supportive and comforting. These people are gems a thousand times over.

But too many times, there is one well-intentioned friend or family member who offers grief advice that is simply terrible. Often, they mean well.

But if their advice makes you feel worse instead of better, search out an acquaintance who has walked a similar road.

A side note: You can still have a wonderful relationship with friends and family who don’t personally understand your grief. Just know they won’t be the best source of your comfort in this season.

Accept that and forgive their faults. We have all been that well-intentioned person at least once in our lives. When the tables are turned and they are grieving a huge loss, you will provide the comfort they were unable to give earlier.

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{Part 2 of How to Cope with the Loss of a Child: Coming Soon}

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Sara

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