Coping with losing your child is never easy. I cannot give you a simple list of “how-tos” or tell you how to cope best. I can simply share what helped me cope, and how I survived.
The days following the stillbirth of my son, Mateo, were eerily similar to days from my past, following a suicide attempt. But this time, a part of me did die–my heart. Everything was foggy, dark and the pain was unbearable. Coping during those times meant merely surviving. Not only did I have to survive for myself, but I had to support my wife who was struggling to hold on as well.
The first thing I did to cope was to pray. I knew that my faith would be the only thing, that would hold me and us together after Mateo’s death. I didn’t know how it would happen or know if I totally believed that faith in Jesus would heal us or save us, but the only alternative was total and utter despair. My prayers were laments. They were screams shouted through tears. They were the psalms. They were my hearts deepest longings, my greatest hurts, and all of me that was left. It helped.
Related: I Thought About Hurting Myself
I also knew that my wife and I would not be able to survive this loss alone. I reached out to friends, family, and church for support. Coping is easier when others are there to carry your burdens with you. People brought us meals. They sat with us. They prayed with us. People were present. We attended support groups.
Another important thing I quickly learned about coping is: meet your physical needs. Eat, stay hydrated, sleep, and exercise. You have to keep living, but in order to do that, you must do the small things that will help you stay alive and keep your mental health well. It wasn’t easy. Each moment of each day felt impossible. But if I was going to survive, or cope, I had to do the small things that mattered.
Writing became one of the greatest ways I coped. I was already a blogger when we found out about our pregnancy with Mateo, and when he passed, I wrote and wrote. Perhaps some of my best writings poured out the days and weeks following his stillbirth. My wife and I also journaled every day. We did this together. It was not only therapeutic for us, but it was a way we bonded and held together as a couple after losing Mateo.
Related: Ways to Survive Loss as a Couple
Time. Time is essential when coping with the loss of a child. My wife took the full 12 weeks of FMLA and even left her full-time career after losing him. She took a part-time job so she could cope with our loss and grieve. We spent the next six months together almost all of the time unless she was at work or I was. We got rid of unnecessary expenses, made a budget, so we could both work part-time and be there for each other. Time is necessary for healing. Take whatever time you need, not what others tell you is acceptable, but take the time necessary for yourself.
Creativity was the final outlet we found for coping. My wife and I learned to crochet together at the YMCA. I started playing guitar again. I started drawing. We both wrote. We painted and made memory boxes for Mateo.
There were many more things we did to cope with losing our son. I cannot give you an exhaustive list, but I encourage you to do anything healthy that isn’t self-destructive to cope. Be accepting of coping as simply getting out of bed, or taking a walk. Coping doesn’t mean your emotions aren’t validated, or you are betraying the memory of the child you lost. Coping means accepting the loss and moving forward, however slowly, and living again. I hope in sharing ways we coped, you are given new ideas or renewed strength on your healing journey.