The author of the book Gaining Traction, Dr. Vicki Panagotacos, spoke with Dr. Gloria Horsley during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. In addition to operating her own therapy practice, Dr. Panagotacos is a researcher and committed to sharing suggestions on coping with grief—particularly beyond that tough first year. Many times the second year “ended up being tougher than the first year,” she explains, which was discovered after working with several patients in grief. Oftentimes, the “goal” is to get to that first year mark, but then what? It can be challenging to look beyond.
Things like stillborn births happen so early, and parents haven’t met the child in the real world yet, that sometimes it seems like “you should get over that,” she explains. These early losses are often just as tough as any other. However, the outside support, or lack thereof, can be daunting. “You are affected deeply,” she says, especially for parents who may have spent over a decade trying to get pregnant and who perhaps already survived miscarriages.
The Terrible Two’s
In life, you can usually figure out what you want—but often not until you figure out what you don’t want. The same goes with grieving. Deciding what you want to eliminate and keep in your life is a critical process that can be done through writing things down. She often starts with a big whiteboard, and it can take up to eight weeks to complete. Writing what you want, what you don’t want and focusing on revisions over coming months is paramount.
This provides a roadmap for and from the tragedy. Dr. Horsley encourages everyone in grief to get Dr. Panagotacos’ book and to establish their own means of elimination and cherishing throughout the grief process. Gaining support, by whatever means, is key to this journey.