Learning To Cope With Pain After Child Loss
When I was learning how to navigate the world and my new life after I lost my son, I read an article that helped me tremendously. So much in fact I decided to base this blog on it! The following is from Richard Marsh’s biography “Surviving Loss”:
Coping and Catastrophic Change
By nature, everyone has multiple ways to cope with any problem. While everyone has heard of the “Flight or Fight” alternatives, there are actually about nine methods of coping used by people, each with a typical type of action and an associated mental state.
1. Attack. When faced with a problem, one may attack it.
The action for this pattern is fighting and the emotion is anger.
Anyone who reacts to challenge and problems with anger is focused
on this pattern of resolving conflicts and problems.
2. Fleeing. When faced with a problem, a person can run
away from it. The action is flight, and the emotional state is
fear. Many people run from their problems.
3. Denial. The action is to ignore the problem and the
emotional state is dullness.
4. Dithering. The action associated with dithering is
random response and the emotional state is confusion. Dithering
is also referred to in the literature as distracting.
5. Co-option. The action associated with co-opting problems
is cooperation. The general act is trying to reach a
participatory and collective action and the emotional state is
a cooperative one.
6. Analysis. This response to stress or problems is to
attempt to think through and understand the problem.
The emotional state is usually curiosity.
7. Action. This response is somewhat of the opposite to
Analysis. It is “doing something, anything” and in many ways is
an active form of dithering. The emotional state is one of
8. Appeasement. The general act is to just give in and
the general emotional state is guilt.
9. Anguish. This response is to give up and the emotional
state is one of despair.
Whenever there is catastrophic change and pain, the mind treats the pain as a signal that the current methods of coping need to be changed. The subconscious treats the pain as proof that the current method has failed and forces a person to begin to try the methods over and over again until the pain decreases and something is found that “works.”
Persons who have catastrophic loss will experience all of the above states and methods over and over again in their lives, almost randomly, until the pain decreases.
Thus, if a person were assaulted and robbed in a parking lot, they would feel anger, confusion, guilt and a desire to do something (or nothing) over and over again until the pain had healed. The emotions and states would be applied to everything in life, not just parking lots and banks.
A person who loses a child will suffer through this cycle for at least a year and usually for three to five years. If they are moved off track in their healing they can become stuck in a mode for five to ten years or even for life. One of the worst things outsiders can do is pressure grieving parents not to resolve a mode or to attempt to force them to stick in one.
Steps and Cycles
It is important to understand that these steps associated with grief and mourning can afflict everyone, not just those with ”serious” losses. While these steps are caused by the constant cycling of coping mechanisms, these steps occur, to some extent, in every life when loss occurs. While few lose children, many lose jobs, friends and other hopes, and experience portions of the same steps.
In spite of it all, it is possible to cope. You, your family and others can all do things that will help you make it through the loss of a child (or other significant loss) in shape to make a better tomorrow and able to care for those who remain. Always remember, those who remain need you as much as those who died.
While I had read about the stages of grief written many years ago by the famous Dr. Kubler- Ross, and was able to apply them to my own healing. I found that the 9 stages of coping with catastrophe found above carried me even further up the road to grief recovery. I hope that in reading this many others find the help they need as well.
Peace & Light,
Certified From Heartbreak to Happiness Coach
“Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself?”