Distractions? There are Pros and Cons

After Zachary died, I entered what I call “The Year of Distraction.” During that time I did everything but face my grief head on. My husband and I shopped for houses and moved within six months. I amped up my photography business and photographed as many weddings as possible, working long hours and locking myself in the office afterwards to edit. We went on an expensive vacation. Fitness because a huge focus for me and I filled up my time with exercise classes, not to mention children’s art and sport classes for my daughter.

“The Year of Distraction” was a time full of life and from the outside many may have assumed that I was trudging along and handling the circumstances quite well. On the inside, however, I was avoiding the issue, avoiding grief and looking for healing in all the wrong places.

Grief is messy; it doesn’t fit nicely into our expectations or what we feel is acceptable. 

I always encourage people who have lost a child to focus on their loss and be present in their time of mourning. It is not a comfortable place to be but the emotions are as real as a houseguest and they must be entertained for a time. To put off the grieving process is to put off your healing.

If I were to go back, would I do it all differently? Would I change my year of distraction? Yes and no.

Cactus flower photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute Wanted Chosen Planned

Just today I realized, while I wish I had not shoved my sadness into the periphery of my heart and instead faced my loss, I do think that a breathing time may be of value. I recently read a book about writing with a point I found helpful and widely applicable. Of course I can’t remember the name of the book (I’ll post that later in the comments). The premise of one chapter centered on left brain/right brain thinking. The author advised that if you are stuck on a creative task, shift gears and do something with the mathematical, logic part of your brain and you will likely find breakthrough.

I tried this technique when I was writing my second novel. Deep in the middle of a scene when I was tired and mentally taxed, I hit a writers’ roadblock. I was stuck. Instead of banging my head against the wall, I took the left brain/right brain advice and put it to use. I left my creative writing process and went into my art studio and did some mindless handwork preparing pieces of wood for a sculpture I was working on.

Voilà! Twenty minutes later I had a break through.

I wonder if “The Year of Distraction” was a bit like that. It was a change of gears; I had spent the month and a half leading up to Zachary’s death mourning him at every ultrasound, at every doctor’s appointment. The distractions I dove into may have been helpful, in a sense, allowing me to break the cycle of sadness just enough to give me incite on my life once that time was over.

Do I regret “The Year of Distraction?” No. It prolonged my search for healing, much longer than I wish it had, but it is an important part of my story and has helped bring me to where I am today – for that I am thankful.

If you have lost your child, it may be helpful to shift gears for a time to let your brain recharge. Take a week, a month, even a year if that’s what you need. Paint a room in your house, take up a new hobby, go for long runs in the evening, read books other than self-help guides. Whatever you decide to do, just be consciously authentic to where you are at and what you are feeling. Do what you want. Figure out what will bring happiness into your life.

Boat feet photograph copyright Alexis Marie Chute Wanted Chosen Planned


  1. Patti Walker
    Apr 8, 2013

    Alexis – as always you put into such beautiful words the way that I always try to guide people in their own unique grief journey. There is no reward for speed. We come from such a “quick fix” society – people often want a recipe for their experience. Yet it is theirs to own (as sucky as it can be) and continues to be a way to parent and stay connected to their precious baby. A big hug to you and all of your family!

    • Alexis Marie
      Apr 17, 2013

      You are so right, Patti: “There is no reward for speed.” I would actually think speed would give a false sense of healing, like something that is half baked. From the outside it looks like a loaf of bread but on the inside its still dough. We live in such a fast paced world but matters of the heart do not move with the same haste. In my own experience, even though my grief period was prolonged, it feels like the hole in my soul has been mended solidly with love, understanding and remembrance. As you say, everyone has their own way, timeline and expression of grief and I truly believe it is best for all of us to be authentic to what seems right for us and not be quick to judge others.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *