Surviving Heartbreak: Coping With the Death of Your Child
It’s not realistic to think you can skate through life unscathed. Setbacks big and small will arise. But there are some obstacles that are much worse than others. For example, some folks are forced to endure the death of a child. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more nightmarish scenario.
After at least some of the shock wanes, however, you will be left with the task of surviving heartbreak. Believe it or not, it is possible to cope with a tragedy of such magnitude. You won’t arrive at a finish line called “recovery.” Rather, the goal is to maintain enough flexibility to navigate the painful process.
The Initial Shock
The loss of a child will provoke an avalanche of emotions. From grief to anger to loneliness to fear and beyond, you ricochet between feelings and sensations. This is normal but not without problems. You’ll require tons of support but volatile emotions can scare away the very people you need. Besides this paradox, here is some other fallout to brace for:
Regardless of the circumstances, it’s not unusual to blame yourself. You may feel as if you let your child down. You did not live up to your role as a protective parent. There were things left unsaid. In some cases, you may regret the last words you spoke to the child.
Grief manifests in your body. You may not always be able to make the connection, but those physical symptoms are no coincidence.
Loss of Security
A jolting loss like this can shatter your sense of stability in the world. If this can happen, you wonder, is anyone ever safe?
The stress caused by losing a child can impact all of your relationships. It is not unusual for couples to split up after experiencing such sorrow. Relationships with other children such as your lost child’s siblings, cousins, or friends may shift uncomfortably too.
How to Survive Heartbreak and Cope With the Death of Your Child
Feel What You Need to Feel
Be patient with yourself. Well-meaning people will tell you to stay strong or that it’s time to move on. Only you can decide how and for how long you respond.
Prepare For the “Post-Grieving” Time
After the tragedy, people will be around. As time passes, they will and must get back to their own lives. Prepare yourself in advance for this. Create a support system. Do not go it alone. As distraught as you feel, isolation is not your friend.
This can serve two purposes. Firstly, you’ll need some direction in your daily life. A self-care regimen will offer some structure. More importantly, it will help fortify you to deal with the long process of bereavement. Elements to include:
- Make healthy eating choices
- Get some daily activity and exercise
- Do your best to maintain a sleep schedule
- Resist the urge to “self-medicate” with things like alcohol or junk food
Settle Into Other Routines
Besides self-care, it can be healing to settle into other routines, e.g. meals, chores, etc. Do this for yourself and for other family members.
Seek Out Support Groups
There can be a tremendous amount of solace to be found in speaking with other parents who have suffered a similar loss.
Bottom Line: Ask For Help
Again, it may feel logical to withdraw into your sorrow. However, this approach is counterproductive. In such a time, a more productive and self-loving choice is to speak with a mental health counselor. Regular parent counseling sessions are the ideal setting to give voice to your heartbreak.
Working together, you’ll find new ways to process and function while honoring your grief. You can cope amidst the mourning but it is truly beneficial to seek care and support to help you move forward.