Guest blog post written by Sarah from Alice and After, a mother to forever 5-month-old, Alice and rainbow Rosie Mae.
When my daughter Alice passed away from SIDS, I was crushed. My whole life had been decimated by the loss of my beautiful little girl, and my husband and I were left with no choice but to rebuild. Of course, nothing could ever fix the tremendous hole left in the heart of a parent who has lost a child. However, as we have been forced to move forward with Alice always in our hearts and minds, I have found a few things that have helped me cope. Since the grief process is different for everyone, effective coping mechanisms may vary for you; this is just my experience.
1. Talk about your child –
You have experienced an unthinkable loss, but your child’s life, no matter how short, was a blessing. Try to separate the child from the tragedy in your mind, and allow yourself to celebrate the joy they brought you. Say their name. Involve them in your life. Tell friends about them. There will be times this will be difficult, and you don’t need to force yourself, but don’t be afraid to share if you feel inclined.
2. Find a therapist –
This is the #1 piece of advice I give to everyone who has lost a child because they can help you on a personal level rather than a “one size fits all” treatment. Particularly in the first year, coping with the loss of a child is extremely difficult. There is no need to attempt to cope on your own. A therapist can provide strategies that will help you grieve in a good way. They are professionally trained to help you overcome things come along with loss like PTSD, guilty feelings, bad dreams, and panic attacks. They are not there to help you “forget about it” or move on like nothing happened. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a therapist that is a good fit for you. I would recommend finding one who specializes in grief counseling.
3. Network with other loss parents –
Whether in person or online, connecting with other parents who have lost a child, possibly even in the same way you did, can be immensely helpful. Shortly after Alice passed, I joined a Facebook group of parents who had lost a child to SIDS in my area, and the mothers there welcomed me with open arms. We spoke openly of the day our babies passed and I was brought great comfort knowing I wasn’t alone in my loss. You can find validation, kind listening ears, and people who just get it by connecting with other parents who are familiar with infant loss, and I guarantee you will find lifelong friends.
4. Do whatever YOU need for peace of mind –
After losing a child, I can almost guarantee you will experience heightened anxiety. Do not be afraid to do whatever it takes to keep this at bay. If you find yourself extremely worried about your child’s health, find a pediatrician who will be understanding and call them or take them in as often as you need to. If you need extra ultrasounds during subsequent pregnancies, find a provider who is willing to accommodate you. If you are too anxious to sleep while your child sleeps, I would recommend purchasing something like an Owlet Smart Sock so you can keep an eye on your child at night by tracking their heart rate and oxygen. This may help you get the rest you need. I never would have been able to have more children without the promise of the peace of mind the Owlet Smart Sock brings me. Be patient with yourself. You are not crazy. You experienced the unthinkable, and of course you will never be the same. Peace of mind is invaluable, and there are people and products who can help provide it. Find them. Use them.
Losing a child brings unimaginable heartache. You will never be how you were before. Nothing can completely fix it, but if you honor their memory, prioritize your mental health, connect with other loss parents, and do whatever you need to for peace of mind, you can build a happy life where the tragedy of infant loss is just one piece of the puzzle.