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  • The Vail Project

Armageddon: Instructions for when your life implodes

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that once you lose your child you quickly become an expert in survival. It doesn't matter if your 16 month old dies in her sleep or your soldier is killed in combat, the loss of your child is traumatic. That trauma forces us into survival mode.

Let's examine the definition of survival:


1. the act or fact of surviving, remaining alive, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances

2. a person or thing that survives or endures

Remaining alive. By definition, to be successful at surviving the loss of a child, you just have to remain alive. That is surviving. Not sure I would agree. But I will say that in the first few months after we lost Vail, just waking up every day felt like survival success.

If losing your child is the absolute worst case scenario in life (and believe me, it is) then any success we have in surviving that loss, can be applied to any other type of life disaster. My loss is still very recent and raw, and I still have years of things to learn about how to continue on with my life without the precious, beautiful Baby Vail. I have learned a few important things in the 4 short months we have lived without her. Here is my short list of instructions for how to endure the insane challenges and pain that life may throw at you. So here goes:

Tip #1: Figure out who you can depend on. Figure it out fast. This is the first key to managing any major life disaster from debilitating loss to messy divorce to career implosion. Get your short list together. Those you can trust to support you no matter what. Reach out to them and let them know that it is go time. You will need them, more than you know.

Tip #2: Put your house in order. Take assessment of what components in your life you do have control over. Make sure that those aspects of basic existence are stable and can go on with little to no additional work on your part. If you are in the throws of grief, loss, divorce, financial instability, career change etc, it is much easier to manage one of these disasters than all of them at once. Don't implode every aspect of your life all at once. #2 is often difficult to achieve, because usually the atomic bomb that went off in your life has an uncontrollable affect on everything else. So do what you can to stop the hemorrhaging.

Tip #3: Accept help often: If you are lucky enough to have people who are willing to help you through whatever personal crisis you are facing...let them. You may not think that you need it or want it. It may make you feel weak or helpless. But I promise you there will come a day when you have no choice but to admit that you cannot get through this on your own.

Tip #4: Know your limits: The capacity of the human ability to handle trauma only goes so far. As a species we have become pretty good at adaptation and survival. Emotional survival is an entirely different thing. In fact, I think as a whole, we are getting worse at this with every passing day. Millennials-I'm looking at you. Take stock of your currently ability to handle what is happening to you. Evaluate your support system. Assess other potential secondary or tertiary fallouts that may occur. Arm yourself with an understanding of your capacity to cope. Be honest. Seek professional help in the areas that you are coming up short. There is no shame in going to counseling.

Tip #5: Prepare for the endurance test ahead: Whatever caused your life to implode, no matter how big or small, picking up the pieces of your life isn't going to happen overnight. You are going to need to accept that you are forever changed. That life will never go back to the way it was before. Take it from me, this is super challenging to do. Put on your most comfortable shoes, your chafe-proof apparel and carb load because this is a marathon. Unlike any actual marathon you can run, this challenge doesn't have a defined finish line.

Tip #6: Block out the haters: No matter what life disaster you are trying to navigate there will be no shortage of people willing to tell you how you should manage it. Some will have helpful advice and others will be full of bullshit. Tune out the noise, block out the nonsense. You will be better for it. Do what works for you. Your survival is what matters.

As time goes on and I get deeper into managing my pain and navigating my life as it has come to be, I'm sure this list will continue to grow. For now, I hope the few things I have learned so far can help others navigate the treacherous post-apocalyptic landscape of whatever Armageddon has recently imploded in your lives.

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