Today’s post is the third of five days of posting about grief following the death of a child.

Tuesday’s question: What would you say to a parent just beginning this grief journey? What would you want them to know?

Monday’s question: Based on your experience of grief, what would you like the general public to understand about the loss of a child?

Today’s question: What has helped you to cope with this loss? What is something that somebody did for you or said to you that has been helpful?

How I’ve helped myself

  • “Coping with the loss of my son is elusive. When I feel strong, I cope. When I feel vulnerable, I succumb. Maybe it’s all coping. It's the one activity that has its spikes and drops, so it is really hard.”
  • “Something very important was the visual of waves. Grief is like a series of waves. Once I had that image, when I would feel the swell of emotion I knew I would ride it to the ebb, then the next would follow and I would do it again. If I saw the visual, I could see the series play out. I knew I would feel better when the sequence was done. I felt practiced after a time, followed by confidence there would be a touch of peace. This isn't linear, though. But there is enough pattern, a ritual over time, that the terror diminished. I went to the beach several times to imprint and reinforce the visual. It was helpful then, and I call it up often now.”

How others have helped me:

  • “I also kept all the cards I received. I read them any time I want to. I will write some myself when I want to. I am looking forward to giving back some of the love that was given to me and my family. It's a chance to deepen relationships. I love knowing my son would get this call-and-response and want to be part of it. He loved the active exchange of love. That's a wonderful memory of him right there.”

“My best gift was loving him for 28 years.” –Amy

How I’ve helped myself:

  • “Creative outlets--building something, writing, needlework, cooking/baking, gardening--anything into which you can put a solitary effort that produces a tangible result. I find that being creative is a form of meditation. There is something healing about that.​”

How others have helped me:

  • “Those who respected my privacy and individuality, sat silent, listened, and allowed me to grieve in the way I chose, without judgment. Validation at this time is healing.​” –Anonymous

How I’ve helped myself:

  • “Having a place to visit where his ashes rest under a redbud tree - to reflect with him in my heart among nature.”
  • “A bit of therapy by trained grief counselors and sleep medication to keep away the nightmares.”
  • “I am not religious and did not seek higher power or heaven stories or believe in meeting up again 'someday' with my dead son. My strength and healing came from within and from the people I've gathered around me my entire life.”

How others have helped me:

  • “The only thing that could truly 'help' is for my child to re-appear. Short of that, there's nothing anyone can do to truly help. They know it, and you know it. That being said, people truly do care about the parent facing this loss, and it's up to us to give them something to do, because they genuinely want to help us out of their care for us as friends and family members. In the beginning, I let people do things I couldn't do (shop, make food, do complicated tasks at my work, run errands).”
  • “My surviving son, first and foremost and always. Without him to be there for (as he grieved the death of his only sibling), I may have made the choice to stop.”
  • “My loving family, who made it safe for me to cry and talk about pain and memories and injustice and anger."
  • “My supportive and caring workplace. The purpose of my work and my need for income to keep going (a reason to get up and be somewhere each morning).”
  • “My sister came and stayed with me in the weeks afterward as I shut in my pain cocoon. Having a human hold my hand helped keep me tethered to reality - a place that I slipped in and out of with frightening regularity in the early days of loss.”
  • “What was most helpful as the weeks grew into months is when I could call and say, ‘Help, I'm sad’ and someone (not many, but a few) was willing to listen for as long as I needed. Those people are very rare because it's hard to do nothing other than listen to raw, inconsolable pain.” -Kim

How I helped myself:

  • “Finding ways to celebrate our child’s life publicly was very, very healing. Starting with the obituary, the memorial website, prepared Facebook postings, and the memorial service we shaped the conversation of his story for ourselves as parents and for friends and family. This allowed us to have gratitude for those parts of his life and person that we wanted and needed to remember and treasure. I understand how wide a circle that celebration might embrace differs for every family but these things really helped us.”
  • “We also did and still do family readings at meals about grief and loss, healing ourselves day by day. We had a small family celebration on his first birthday after his death. We had a stocking for him at Christmas and tell his stories on holidays and other days. We do public service in his honor and give money to his favorite community programs.” –Anonymous

How I helped myself:

  • “The things that have helped me the most are:
    • a) setting up a regular meeting with trusted friends to talk about my loss and my life -- not isolating is important;
    • b) services at Transitions GriefCare were very helpful, to realize I'm not the only person with such a loss and to use expressive arts to help express feelings;
    • c) books were very helpful to me, including Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst, Grieving Mindfully by Sameet M. Kumar, and a book of blessings by John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space between Us.” –Anonymous

How I helped myself

  • "We had our son for 50 years. Not many parents have had this time.
  • Relief - I thank God that he is now unburdened and free. He had demons that he continuously fought so I believe he was weary.
  • Being in constant touch with his children as he, and ourselves, want this; purchasing an iPhone proved wonderful. We do not live close; we are in regular text contact and continue to make our trips to see them out of state.
  • Finding joy in our memories and gratitude that he was our son."

How others have helped me

  • "Hearing from others of his goodness, kindness, gentleness, and sweetness.
  • Hearing from others of his giving back to community, using fairness and dignity with his employees, as their manager.
  • Hearing the stories of his devil/fun side.
  • Remembering his birthday and/or death anniversary.
  • Remembering his siblings (or someone who was extremely close to him) also on these days.
  • Most importantly, remembering 'forgotten grievers,' such as his twin brother, on these occasions!" –Marie

How I’ve helped myself:

  • “Plant something that you can watch grow. I planted a tree for my son. I write to him in a journal that Hospice gave me.”

How others have helped me:

  • “What has helped me cope is the friends and family who have been so patient and understanding with me. Some have read their own grief books so they have a small sense of what this feels like.
  • “My son was 23 so it is nice when I get to hear stories from his friends who were in college with him. I like when we keep his name and things he did or liked part of everyday conversation. Your child may not be physically here but know he or she is with you.” –Becky