I lost my son, Gus, to SIDS 7 and a half years ago. It is by far the hardest trial I’ve ever faced in my life. And recovering from his loss has been a real challenge and one I feel will be ongoing throughout my life. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about what it was that helped me crawl out of the deepest hole of grief that has ever consumed me and how I became, once again, a functioning human being. This is what I’ve come up with:
1. Time- This is the hardest yet most effective tool for overcoming grief. It amazing and frustrating at the same time. I remember the first week after my family left I was lying on the ground underneath our kitchen table, crying and wondering how long I would have to feel that way. In my case, it took about 3 years before the pain in my chest really started to ease.
2. Medication- I have to keep my Major Depressive Disorder under control. I have to regularly see a psychiatrist and stay balanced. Whenever I think I don’t need the medication anymore, I have to remember that I’m only thinking that because the medication is working. The right anti-depressants saved my life.
3. Writing- I’ve done a lot of writing about Gus and to Gus. It is a very effective tool but it’s also extremely emotional. It’s hard, when I spend most of my days trying not to think too much about how I miss him, to go to a place where I’m spending a concentrated amount of time remembering him and the pain and sadness.
4. Therapy- The psychiatrist is not always enough. I have to have yearly therapy check ins with a counselor that I have a running relationship with. It makes such a difference to have a good counselor that I trust.
5. Distraction- Being sad would have consumed me had I not taken the time to distract myself from the pain every once in a while by reading a book, watching tv or going out with friends. It’s still something I use when absolutely necessary.
6. Allowance- There are times when it’s appropriate and accepted to think and be sad and I have to embrace those times. I let every bit of emotion pour from my body until there’s nothing left. And it is so helpful.
7. Limitation- I learned early on what would trigger me into a vortex of sadness so I knew I needed to steer clear of those things if I wanted to maintain my sanity. Boundaries were set in place for my own protection and most of them I still abide by.
8. Decision – After a certain amount of time (3 years, in my case), I was tired of being sad and ready to be proactive about overcoming the constant pain of losing a child. Things really started to look up from there.
(To be clear, I don’t think there is every a point where someone is “recovered” from the death of a loved one. I think it’s a constant struggle that is dealt with during someone’s life, there are just different ways of managing it.)
Have you ever lost someone close to you? What are some strategies you use to maintain your sanity?