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Dr. Susan Mecca’s son was diagnosed with cancer at the same time her husband was paralyzed by a neurological condition. How did the career psychiatrist respond? By getting honest and leaning into her sense of loss, which deepened after her husband passed away. The author of The Gift of Crisis: Finding Your Best Self in the Worst of Times is now an expert on coping with the mourning and anticipatory grief in real-time. (And the mother of a healthy teenager.) 

The thing about crisis is that it’s hard not to get lost in the details of the thing. How do you keep your head on a swivel when literally everything is becoming an emotional trigger?

If you’re someone who can look at numerous news stories and data and put it into an appropriate place and not let it impact your mood, then you don’t need to limit it. If, on the other hand, you find yourself, after reading it, more stressed out, more panicky, more irritable, more whatever — which I’m guessing is the large majority — then you need to limit it.

A lot of parents are likely doing that, but maintaining that strategy — really committing to it over time — is really tricky. How do you recommend staying on course?

Planes don’t fly in a straight line. They’re always changing course. So as a parent you’re always going to be readjusting. But if you don’t know your course, you don’t know what you’re readjusting to.

Think about how can you get across that we as a family can do this? Well, we can think about our community. We can think about our friends. We can think about our grandparents. One of the big things you learn in adulthood is that you have responsibility for your mood and you can choose how you’re going to show up regardless of how everyone else shows up.