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Losing a Child: Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Struggling Parents

As a parent, nothing can match the pain and utter devastation of losing a child. During difficult times, we must remember to cling onto others and fall back on our support network. Grief is a complicated process that works differently for everyone. We must process our grief in a healthy manner, or else we risk slipping into destructive habits and behaviors. Here are some coping strategies for parents struggling with the loss of a child.
Understanding Your Grief
It’s hard to find words that fully capture the intense barrage of emotions you feel when losing a child. Regret, anger, shame, and hopelessness can all be expected as you struggle to understand the immense loss you are suffering from. The Kübler-Ross model of grief explains that people process grief in their own way, but certain aspects remain the same. Shock, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance are all ways we handle grief. While there is no order to this process, understanding how we methodically grieve can help us find the strength and patience to carry on.
The Temptations and Danger of Relapse
Sometimes when we face immense pain, we look for a means of escape. For many, this escape comes in the form of drugs and alcohol. While looking toward substances may offer a momentary escape, it only prolongs the grieving process by numbing the pain and avoiding confronting the underlying source of your grief. For parents who have already struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol in their lives, falling back into these destructive habits can create additional guilt and shame. This can only lead to even more pain for grieving parents and a vicious cycle of self-medication.
A Better Solution: Leaning on Others
There is a better way for parents to deal with the loss of a child than escaping through drugs and alcohol. Opening yourself up to the grief you’re experiencing and sharing your grief with others is the best path forward.
After we suffer a traumatic loss, we sometimes forget to rely on others, and we close ourselves off from the ones closest to us. It’s important to fight off this natural instinct of seclusion and open our hearts to friends and family. Letting them in on the healing process takes weight off of our shoulders and allows us to more readily confront our own grief. It’s also important for us to help others during this time of grief. It’s easy to forget that the loss of a child affects more than the parents. Sometimes the best way to handle our own grief is to console others also suffering from the loss.

A Better Solution: Counseling
Even if you are discussing your loss openly with friends and family members, don’t hesitate to try counseling and join therapy groups. Seeking out counseling and therapy will push you to discuss the pain you’re feeling, sometimes on an even deeper level. Joining therapy groups allows you to hear the experiences of others who suffer from the same pain as you. This will help put your own grief in perspective, and again, reaching out and consoling others with grief can help you cope with your own. If you find counseling isn’t enough, you can always write down your thoughts in a journal as an additional outlet.
Grief is something meant to be experienced outward. Expressing your grief with others and being open about the pain of losing your child is the best way to move through the process of grief. Losing a child is a tragedy that cannot be matched. It’s in moments like these that we must lean on others for strength and support to avoid falling back into bad habits and furthering our cycle of pain.
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Paige Johnson
December 13, 2017 | Guest Posts | 0

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