Coping vs. Healing, Guest Writer: Diana Woods

Hello readers!

It is such an honor to write to you today. Let me introduce myself, my name is Diana Wood, I am 25 years old, I live in Idaho and I have been married to my amazing husband, Weston, for five years. I first got to know Ceci at the IGNITE program in California. She has always been an inspiration to me so I was very excited (and nervous!) when she asked me to be a guest writer.

Throughout this past week I went back and forth on several ideas on what to write about and finally settled on the differences between healing and coping when dealing with a loss. Is there a difference? Is it ok to cope? How do I start healing?

Before we dive too deep into that I would like to tell you about my son, Kellen.

In May 2014, Weston and I found out we were expecting our first child. We were overjoyed! Fast forward to 28 weeks and our unborn son was diagnosed with Trisomy 18—a chromosomal abnormality that the medical community deems ‘incompatible with life’. (I hate that phrase by the way.) I carried our son, Kellen, within me for 39 weeks before he was born and lived outside the womb for only three days. We treasured every moment he spent with us.

If you would like learn more about our journey with Kellen visit http://kellensjourney2015.blogspot.com

Back to healing and coping. Let’s take a look at what these two words mean:

To cope means to deal with and attempt to overcome problems and difficulties.

Synonyms: manage, survive, subsist, look after oneself, fend for oneself, carry on, get by/through, bear up, hold one’s own, keep one’s end up, keep one’s head above water; (Webster Merriam Dictionary)

To heal means to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment or to repair or reconcile; settle.

Synonyms: cure, fix, rehab, rehabilitate, mend, remedy (Webster-Merriam Dictionary)

A few months after my loss I found myself just going through the motions. I was just surviving, and trying to ‘keep my head above water’. I didn’t want to do much and felt an overall sense of defeat and exhaustion. On the outside, others would say ‘you are so brave’ or ‘you are handling this so well’. The truth is I was merely coping. Just getting by. I felt stuck and lacked direction. I was preforming my responsibilities and holding it together as best I could for the world to see. This is exhausting work. After getting home at the end of the day I would collapse on the couch and just watch a movie or read something senseless. I needed a distraction, I didn’t want to feel anymore.

In some ways, especially at the beginning of a grief journey, I believe you do have to cope. Growing up, my mom used to say to me ‘fake it, till you make it’. She wasn’t meaning lie or be fake but to make it through tough situations, sometimes you just keep going until you get it right. Certain days I just had to act strong even if I didn’t feel strong and on certain days I still do. In my opinion, coping is a stepping stone to healing. It does become a problem when one chooses to only cope and never heal. In addition, how someone chooses to cope can become problematic. Turning to drugs or alcohol and avoiding loved ones or becoming isolated can cause more pain and hurt and ultimately delay the healing process. Something I’ve begun to learn is that healing doesn’t mean forgetting.

So, what are some ways to start the healing process?

-For me, writing is a healing outlet. I first started my own blog to share with family and friends about my son’s diagnosis because it was hard to tell them in person. After writing that first post I felt a sense of relief and I have been writing ever since. I do it for myself to remember and I do it so others might be inspired by Kellen’s short life.

-Much like Ceci’s ‘mom journal’ I started a ‘Kellen journal’. I started it a few weeks after I found out his diagnosis. I wrote down memorable things we did and after he passed I continued writing to tell him things I never got a chance to.

-Do not neglect your spiritual life. It can be easy to walk away from God and say ‘where were you?’ and ‘why did you let this happen?’ I’ve been down that road and I think these are valid questions but don’t let your situation divide you with God. I still wrestle and question. I came to a break through a few months back when I realized I never had to be okay with what happened. I never have to be at peace that my son died. But, I could still worship, I could still believe and I could still trust. This is something you will have to find for yourself. When you have a deep, deep hurt no human words can ever bring comfort. I know I could never console you but I know the One who can.

-Counseling. Talking about a loss to a non-biased party can really help to gain perspective and aid in the process of finding a new ‘normal’.

-Look at photos. I spent several days printing photos and inserting them into photo albums. I go back and let myself reminisce—feeling all the pain, the fear, and the love.

-Get creative. Kellen’s due date was February 2nd so the Christmas before he was born I made tree ornaments for my parents and my in laws. Something about being creative is very therapeutic. I also like to arrange flowers and take them up to Kellen’s grave.

-Exercise. Working out is a great outlet for stress, anxiety and anger. Give it a try!

As you start pursuing your own emotional healing you will find what works for you and what doesn’t. What works for me may not work for you. Give yourself grace and be encouraged that you are not alone. Greif is a lifelong journey that has many ups and downs. You will never ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one but you can rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.

I am in the first year of my grief journey and some days I am still very raw. I am learning as I go and do not claim to have all the answers by any means.

Thank you so much for letting me share my heart with you today!

Love and Blessings,

-Diana

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