One spring day, a truck ran an intersection striking a motorcycle and killing 15-year-old Karen Kurz. The grief that engulfed her mother, Norma Sawyers-Kurz, was deep and dark. There were many times when she felt there was no escape or recovery from grief. “But, I survived,” she writes in her book Ways To Cope With Your Child’s Death: A Guide For Grieving Parents. In her book, she provides creative ways for a parent or a grandparent to “cope with and survive” the death of a child. Here are some of her suggestions.
Accept support. “Just getting up in the morning to face the day can be a challenge. To help you through this process, accept emotional support from friends and relatives,” she writes. There are times when going it alone is noble and necessary. Grieving the death of a grandchild is not one of those times. People want to help and will reach out to you. Respond. Accept support, comfort, friendship and love.
Seek guidance from a skilled counselor. While family and friends can help, their lack of training and objectivity can be a hindrance. A skilled professional “has more knowledge and resources to help you work through emotions like anger and guilt. They can also validate our loss and provide a frame of reference as to what constitutes ‘healthy’ mourning.”
Remain engaged and active. As hard as this may be to do on a daily basis, it’s vital to stay busy “because it helps prevent us from dwelling too much on painful memories.” Maintaining a routine helps take the edge off the grief and provides a bit of respite away from the pain.
Cry when you need to. “The expression of grief is a natural part of our human experience. Yet we somehow get the idea that the tears of grief are out of place in our modern world.” Tears are the body’s natural wisdom and a method for releasing emotion, as well as toxins that accumulate in the body because of grief.
Take care of your health. Don’t use or abuse alcohol and drugs to help you deal with grief. “In addition to the risk of addiction and the destruction of brain cells, the use of alcohol and other drugs can delay the grieving process. You avoid accepting reality,” she states.
Gather information about the grief process. “Confusion compounds the situation,” she recalls and stresses the importance of learning about the grief process—“what to expect, what is normal and how to confront the dilemmas which emerge.”
Cultivate patience. “As time goes on and the severity of your grief does not seem to dissipate as quickly as you wish, you may begin to panic that you will never ‘get over’ your grief.” Rather than spiral down into despair, cultivate patience. There is no quick fix for the pain of grief. It has to run its course. Be patient with yourself. You will recover.
Don’t let other rush you through grief. There are always a few uninformed people who will signal that you should be over this by now… or that you’re doing grief all wrong, or your reaction is somehow wrong. “Don’t allow friends or anyone else to push you through the mourning process or to set a time frame for you,” she bluntly states. Instead, recognize that grief is unique to you, to your particular loss and to your way of coping and adapting.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle through grief. “Remember that you will need to stay healthy in order to complete the difficult mourning process. There is more for you to do in life, and you must survive to be able to do it.” Look after your physical self through exercise and diet. Look after you spiritual self through spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. Look after your mental self by practicing positive thinking and embracing hopeful attitude.
Victor M. Parachin, M. Div., is a bereavement educator and grief counselor.
He is the author of numerous books about grief, including
The Lord Is My Shepherd:
A Psalm For The Grieving and Healing Grief.