Stress Overload and Dealing with Head Lice

General / General : Eleanor Haley

I’ve written about the 2013/2014 winter being pretty craptastic for my family. Although this wasn’t grief related per-say, it was related to significant life stressors and my capacity to focus on any other nonsense has been pretty limited.

It seems only fair that when life gets really bad you should be able to take a ‘time out’. Close down school, stop collecting bills, and learn to feed yourself because I just can’t. I’m in no state to deal with the car emissions inspection being overdue or a deadline at work.

Any adult who’s experienced hardship knows the absurdity of dealing with life’s little annoyances in the context of greater problems. They say God never gives you more than you can handle? Maybe. But what he will give you is a mixed bag fundraiser right around the time you’re ready to hit rock bottom.

This is how I felt on February 13th when I realized my daughter’s constant head itching was not the result of a dry scalp but in fact the result of many little bugs taking up residence in her beautiful thick head of hair. I know, sick.

Let me back up and tell you a little about head lice.

Fact: Lice are itchy and creepy but in actuality they won’t hurt you.

Fact: Lice are not an indication of poor hygiene; they like clean and dirty hair alike. Although they can’t jump from one head to another, they spread pretty easily and one female requires just one mating to be fertilized and can lay up to 100-150 eggs.

Fact: A huge percentage of head lice have become resistant to treatment. Thanks a lot evolution, you can keep your opposable thumbs.

Fact: You don’t need to sterilize your entire house due to lice infestation. They can only live off the human head for 24-36 hours so vacuum couches and throw pillows and clean clothes and linens. But don’t freak out and stuff your entire house into 6 contractor sized trash bags and send your husband to the Laundromat with the ‘Disney Dream Vacation’ change jar.

Fact: Lice have no qualms kicking you when you’re down. Even though you may be dealing with real problems like unemployment, the death of a loved one, or family troubles; lice will not hesitate to come along and be like – oh hey your life sucks AND your head is itchy. Okay, now I’m just spreading rumors about lice.

Despite having 5 brothers and sisters growing up, somehow I had beaten the odds and until this day had never come head on with the little critters. That’s right, egregious pun intended. I had absolutely no context for what to do next, so obviously my reaction was ridiculously over-the-top.

My anxiety rose with every knit I pulled from my first daughter’s hair and finally boiled over when I discovered they’d migrated to my second daughter’s long curly mess. I’m ashamed to say my resulting freak out undoubtedly made my daughters feel bad about the situation, which was completely not their fault (save it for your memoirs girls). But my threshold for dealing with stress was already so low I didn’t feel like I had the wherewithal to wage war on this microscopic invasion.

One hundred deep breathes later I managed to pull myself together. I called the doctor who led me to believe the problem was relatively simple to treat. I obtained a prescription, insisted my husband leave work to pick it up immediately and as soon as he arrived home we treated the girls with a $250 bottle of pesticide infused shampoo. Afterwards I ran around the house stuffing every last sheet, pillow, stuffed animal and article of clothing into trash-bags to be taken to the Laundromat. Once that was done I could finally relax believing all I had to do was check for knits daily, continue to wash linens, and re-shampoo in 10 days.

Phew!lice comb

Between day 1 and day 10 I obediently combed through the girl’s hair daily. I continued to find bugs, but figured this was just a part of the process and fully expected they would be gone once I finished the second shampoo application.

No such luck.

What now?

I filled my days with anxiety about lice and my nights with anxiety about life. Was I not trying hard enough? No…I should try harder. My husband and I subjected the girls to thorough hair combings almost every night. This was a horrible and torturous process for everyone because the kids were bored, the adults were frustrated, and combing through a mess of tangles inevitably resulted in tears for everyone involved. The whole thing finally hit critical mass and in a moment of desperation we cut both of the girls hair half its length using a pair of old kitchen scissors.

We tried Rid and then a week later after hearing Rid doesn’t kill the lice eggs, we tried Nix. Comb, shampoo, comb, shampoo – lather, rinse, repeat. Low and behold it seemed my hard work was finally paying off one day in mid-March when I made it through both the girl’s hair without seeing a single egg or bug. Happy day!

Bad day. A week later the resurgence came. This time my reaction was less freak-out and more temper tantrum. It’s not fair!! I have bigger problems! Why do I have to keep worrying about this?!?!

My feelings towards the lice turned apathetic. I mean, maybe they weren’t that bad. I bet 100 years ago people lived harmoniously with them. Why not just let them co-exist? “I’ll tell you why not”, my will to live chimed in, “because they’re really stinking contagious.” Living with lice meant either disclosing we had them to every person we came into contact with, or keeping it a secret and dealing with the guilt of putting people at risk. Neither option seemed reasonable.

Over the next few weeks, the problem weighed heavily on me. My husband occasionally caught me in the middle of a deep thought and assumed I was thinking about some bigger problem. When asked my response was usually, “I’m just worried we’ll never get rid of the head lice”.

After wearing out all other options I finally decided to call the doctor back. The receptionist at my doctors office listened to my problem and told me she would have the doctor call me back, but before hanging up she remarked that one of the doctors in the office swears by slathering the head with coconut oil, putting a shower cap on and letting it sit over night. Ummm…okay sure…that’s gross and ridiculous.

But my doctor wasn’t much help either and after asking a series of questions that seemed to imply I just didn’t want it bad enough, she told me to throw away all the stuffed animals in the house and reapply the $250 shampoo. If this didn’t work, we could call a very expensive lice service to come out and try to eradicate the problem by doing the same things we’ve been doing, but better.

I can’t even describe the sadness I felt stuffing 7 years worth of stuffed animals into trash bags. I have a problem throwing away anything with a face and images of the Velveteen Rabbit flooded my head. In a moment of weakness I granted them a pardon and hid them in the back of the closet. Surely I could liberate them after some time has passed.

I felt totally beaten down, life and lice were ganging up on me and winning. I couldn’t rationalize spending hundreds of dollars on poisonous shampoo I knew wouldn’t work, and I was skeptical about spending hundreds of dollars on a service. I had been dealing with head lice for almost 2 months and I didn’t know what else to do.

So, I turned to witch craft. Just kidding, I decided to try the coconut oil. I know, this seems like a ridiculous and over simplified solution. My internet research told me it has worked for some but not for others, but an actual doctor had coconut oilrecommended it and all told the treatment would cost $10. I had nothing to lose.

Now that I’m 1500 words into this saga, I will give you the long and short of it: It was a total mess. It was gross. The girls hated it. I combed through their hair very carefully, slathered their heads, let it sit for like 10 hours, and then spent the next four days trying to get it out.

But I have to tell you, and I say this with extremely cautious optimism, I haven’t seen any signs of lice since. I think we may have won, which is good because I needed a win.

It’s funny how insurmountable small irritations can seem when already dealing with others stressors. A small bite to eat is no big deal when your hungry, but when your plate is already full and someone tries to pile more on that same bite can seem almost nauseating.

For those of you dealing with an overload of stress I offer you this, go easy on yourself, control what you can, take things one thing at a time, and ask for help whenever possible. And for those of you dealing with head lice – try the coconut oil.

Sometimes we talk about head lice…and that’s…okay. Subscribe to receive posts straight to your email inbox anyway.

Let’s be grief friends.

We post a new article to What’s Your Grief about once a week. Subscribe to stay up to date on all our posts.

Related Blog Posts

Related Blog Posts

See More

19 Comments on "Stress Overload and Dealing with Head Lice"

Click here to leave a Comment
  1. Jenny  August 24, 2021 at 4:52 pm Reply

    This is an old post but wanted to help any momma that may come along desperate for help. CONDITIONER AND A LICE COMB. Im telling you its magic. Big glob of conditioner, comb comb comb a section of hair, wipe with paper towel. Repeat. You seriously will be done with lice in 48 hours. Be diligent. Let the kids watch tv. Comb comb comb.

  2. Wendy  May 12, 2020 at 6:41 am Reply


  3. Skyler trivett  March 22, 2020 at 10:37 pm Reply

    I’m 11 and I have lice and Im so scared I’ve cried so much I’m getting treatment soon. I don’t know what to do. I really don’t care about the itching it’s because I HATE bugs. I always feel disgusting. Any help?

  4. Luke  July 10, 2019 at 12:38 am Reply

    I’m a 10 year old boy and just “learned” I have hair lice. I was taking a shower and for a few weeks my head was really itchy, and I honestly thought it was just natural, and when I started on my head I asked my mom to do it in the thought maybe we could see why it’s so itchy. Then she looked well and saw I had hair lice?‍♂️. Now she’s freaking out like crazy and washing everything. Scared rn lol.

  5. Sami  March 30, 2019 at 4:56 am Reply

    Our strategy:
    1. Create a whatsapp group with ALL students’ moms. Everyone works together. Keep everyone updated.
    2. Create a large quantity of:
    – Red vinegar
    – Olive oil
    – Mustard oil
    – Coconut oil
    Saturate hair. Cover with shower cap. Use a wide headband to seal it well so the kids can go about their lives.
    Apply every other day for 2 weeks for 2 hours each time. Do this before bedtime. Every 6 days they have to keep it on ovrrnight. Make sure there’s no chance of suffocation.
    3. Wrap hair in bun every morning. Spray Tea Tree oil mixed with Lemon Oil generously each morning. This deters the critters while at school.
    4. Spend 30 minutes per day combing.
    Eggs will be found for weeks afterwards. They are dead or just shells and will gradually be washed away.

  6. Angela  February 2, 2019 at 1:28 pm Reply

    I’m hoping someone will reply and help me because I feel like I am going to lose my mind . Around 12/15/18 my daughter came home from school with lice . She is 7 and I have never dealt with this before ! I have a 4 month old & an almost 2 year old . So -at 9:00pm I went to the store while my husband stripped everything and took it in the basement to the laundry room . I bought the Nix kit & the furniture spray . We treated her head got all of the bugs out and now was time to pick through the nits . We were up until 2-3am doing this . I felt bad for her and I was beyond stressed out crying and panicking . She had a big dance show the next day and now none of us had gotten any sleep . The next few days I checked her head faithfully for and hour and a half each time pulling any nits I seen out . It was winter break from school and I still checked every day making sure I missed NOTHING . She was good . No nits no bugs we were good . No one else in the family got it thank gosh ! I had anxiety leading up to her going back to school . She went back on a Wednesday with her hair slicked back so tight with lots of hairspray in a pony tail , I braided the ponytail and then wrapped the braid into a bun tight, sprayed the repel lice prevention that I ordered off of amazon. and I checked her head Wednesday again for an hour and a half . Nothing . We were good . Again on Thursday the same thing . ( I had been checking it when my husband got home so he could keep an eye on the Little’s ) Friday night comes again the night before another BIG elite showcase for her competitive dances . BOOM smack in my face was ONE LIVE BUG . No nits that I could find . We treated her again . Stripped everything again & repeated the whole process . I was furious. We were up until about 3am this time since we had to make sure we got everything before the show the next day . I cried and cried . I can’t keep going through this . I called the school AGAIN . They told me they would check everyone again and take care of it . After this I was so hesitant to send her back . How could I keep going through this with two littles and a busy dance life for her all while still trying to manage the daily life needs . I continued doing her hair the same , slicked back with lots of hairspray braided the pony & wrapped it around . Sprayed the repel . ( I have also been spraying her jacket and the hood ) . This time every day after school we went straight to the bathroom . I didn’t let her sit on furniture or let her head or jacket touch anything . I feel like I’m making myself crazy . I check her head like this every single day after school for an hour – hour in a half . While my husband is still working which means I have to put both of my littles in a seat until I’m done . Most days they scream and cry while I’m checking her head ?? giving me more anxiety . Well low and behold this past Tuesday 1/29/19 I found one live bug and one nit . I literally lost it . How ? Why ? I’m doing everything right . We treated her again and repeated the process . We haven’t seen any more nits no bugs . My guess is because I check her every single day that she had to of just gotten it Tuesday at school . I am feeling really crazy . I can’t keep living like this . I am looking into homeschool and people think I’m insane . I understand she can get it anywhere . But I feel like the school is doing nothing . I have spoke with them a million times . They say they are following protocol and unfortunately not all parents do everything they are supposed to . I’m so lost and so stressed . I kept her home the rest of the week . I applied Tuesday evening for homeschool . But can I do it ? I’m nervous now thinking about that I actually applied and waiting to hear back . I’m struggling with what to do next . Should I really pull her and homeschool . I need advice I need someone’s guidance who has actually dealt with it. My friends have not gone through this or ever had it nor have their kids . Every single day checking after school for over an hour is really taking a toll on me . Her having it 3 times since the middle of December is really taking a toll on me . She breaks out after every treatment with a rash around her neck , ears and shoulders . Her hair is so damaged now . What am I doing wrong . Please help someone .
    – a mom who is losing her mind

    • Conor  March 1, 2019 at 9:17 pm Reply

      Hi Angela,

      You’re having a hell of a time with lice. I’d like to help you out, if you still need it. I own a lice removal service and we get rid of them in one appointment. Contact me at and I’ll go through the process you can do on your own to get rid of them. I’m not going to sell you anything (I have no products to sell) and my company only serves one city, and I doubt you are in it, so don’t worry about a sales pitch.

  7. Christine Moornil  January 27, 2019 at 10:17 am Reply

    I think I am the perfect one to comment here.
    I, myself, suffered from lice and got rid of it with natural ingredients.
    No knowledge from where these filthy bugs came on my head.
    I tried all the lice shampoos and lice oils available in the market. They worked but head lice again came back in a week’s time.
    Later, I came to know from a friend that its the lice eggs, known as nits, hatch to produce more nuisance.
    Same friend suggested me of neem oil and tea tree oil to naturally kill lice.
    Lice-Nil is one such product available in market with this curable combination.
    Applied about 30 minutes and rinsed my hair.
    All the lice was gone, naturally The nits also destroyed as they didnt come back after a week’s time as in earlier instances.

  8. Julia  December 29, 2018 at 11:22 am Reply

    Can I still comment? I’m crying. I’m going crazy. For 3 weeks I’ve spent 5 hours a day combing my two girls and my own hair. Neither is patient — one is autistic and one is a very active 3 year old. We have tons of blankets and stuffed animals. I don’t know how to deal with all of them all the time. And they both put stuff on their heads all the time. And the vaccum cleaner is broken. Our place is trashed and the tv is always on and I feel like I’ve lost quality time with my girls — never mind that Christmas felt like a bust because of it. I don’t know how to deal with it. I never had it at all growing up. Oh and right now we have no money — as in not enough to even get by.

    • LJ  December 23, 2019 at 11:02 pm Reply

      Hi Julia I hope things have gotten better for you and your family did you guys ever get rid of the lice??

  9. Hopeless mama  February 18, 2018 at 1:20 pm Reply

    I’m going through the lice battle right now. Myself, my little boy and my little girl have it. We’ve been washing, vacuuming, shampooing, combing, nit picking, only for my kids to come back from daycare with more lice. My daycare doesn’t seem to be handling it properly. It’s a small in-home daycare, and I don’t believe they are warning the other parents about the infestation. I feel like we’re in a losing battle. I will try the coconut oil, but if our daycare doesn’t take this problem seriously, then I don’t know what else to do.

    • Eleanor Haley  February 18, 2018 at 4:04 pm Reply

      Oh, it’s the worst! Yeah, if there’s one person/family who doesn’t get rid of it, it’s hard not to catch it again. Ugh. Good luck!

  10. Hopeless mama  February 18, 2018 at 1:20 pm Reply

    I’m going through the lice battle right now. Myself, my little boy and my little girl have it. We’ve been washing, vacuuming, shampooing, combing, nit picking, only for my kids to come back from daycare with more lice. My daycare doesn’t seem to be handling it properly. It’s a small in-home daycare, and I don’t believe they are warning the other parents about the infestation. I feel like we’re in a losing battle. I will try the coconut oil, but if our daycare doesn’t take this problem seriously, then I don’t know what else to do.

    • Eleanor Haley  February 18, 2018 at 4:04 pm Reply

      Oh, it’s the worst! Yeah, if there’s one person/family who doesn’t get rid of it, it’s hard not to catch it again. Ugh. Good luck!

  11. Heidi Underhill  November 6, 2014 at 1:46 pm Reply

    I am in day three of the lice battle right now. I am so stressed out! I cannot imagine 2 months! My 3 girls had it. We had to treat 7 of us. My husband and boys have short hair (buzz cut) so that was easy. The rest of us have shoulder length or longer . I spend $90 on store treatment the first day. I spend about and hour on each girls head just nit picking. The next day we still had nits. The second day I spend $55 on mayo, shower caps, vinegar, and new bathroom light bulbs so it was super bright and more black trash bags of course. The mayo was on our heads for 5 hours – so nasty! Then I did a vinegar rinse. And spend about 2 hours on each girl between the washing and the nit picking.

    Now I am on the washing and sanitizing stage. I hate cleaning every day so this has been torture.

    Thanks for your post it is the laugh I needed!

    • Eleanor  November 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm Reply

      Oh my gosh. I’m having flashbacks! Seriously though if this doesn’t work the Coconut oil worked for us, my sister’s family and a friend’s family. Just Google it and it will tell you what to do. GOOD LUCK!

  12. John Davies  May 3, 2014 at 11:02 am Reply

    I laughed out loud throughout your lice story, and it has nothing to do with the fact I’m your father. You often end our telephone calls with “Life is good.” It is indeed, and having you as a daughter is way at the top of my list of reasons why.

  13. Eleanor  April 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm Reply

    Oh my gosh, it’s the worst and dealing with them is very time consuming! If they come back again we will be calling Lice Happens but here’s hoping.

  14. AC Broughton  April 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm Reply

    I feel your pain! When my mom was dying and I was dividing my weeks between my home and my mother’s home 2.5 hours away, my daughter suddenly got lice. We did Nix, we stayed up late combing, vacuuming, washing. They kept coming back and I GOT THEM TOO. We probably had 3 or 4 incidences. I called the people at Lice Happens and they were VERY helpful. We haven’t had a recurrence in (knock wood) over a year so I hope this chapter is over. I hope you won’t have to deal with them again either!

Leave a Comment

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED. Required fields are marked *