Midfielder David Worrall has said Southend's play-off challenge has helped him "move on" from the tragic loss of his baby son, Noah, in March.
The Shrimpers will face Wycombe in Saturday's play-off final at Wembley, with Worrall, 24, likely to start.
"There were points where I wondered if my season was over," he told BBC Sport. "I didn't think I'd be ready to come back in and I'd written the season off.
"Going back to football allowed me to not forget what happened but move on."
Worrall had several weeks away from the game to spend time with his family in Manchester after Noah died only 45 minutes after he was born, but still attended some matches during that period.
And the former Bury player said that support from his team-mates, and in particular manager Phil Brown, helped bring him through that challenging period.
"When we had the funeral the guys all sent flowers and even the fans got together a small collection for the charity," he said.
|Southend went over 720 minutes without conceding a goal after a 2-1 defeat by Burton looked to have ruled them out of play-off contention in mid-March.|
"Once I went back I would get in early and be one of the last to leave - just so I could be around people and I wasn't going home, being alone and sat over-thinking things.
"I could go and speak to the gaffer whenever I wanted and I spent quite a lot of time talking to him.
"If I hadn't had that I probably wouldn't have gone back until next season."
The Manchester-born player made his full return to action on 21 April against former side Bury and scored a 74th-minute free-kick winner.
It kept Southend in the hunt for promotion and Worrall admitted he believed it was "meant to be" as he dedicated the goal to his son.
"I have never taken a free-kick in my life," he explained. "The first time I took one, it was my first match back, it went in the top corner and it won us the game.
"Sometimes things are just meant to be and this felt like that."
|Southend's winning run to the play-offs|
|21 March: Southend 0-0 Cambridge United||3 April: Southend 2-0 Mansfield|
|6 April: Hartlepool 0-1 Southend||11 April: Southend 1-0 Tranmere|
|14 April: Southend 2-0 Newport County||18 April: Exeter 0-1 Southend|
|21 April: Bury 0-1 Southend||25 April: Southend 1-0 Luton|
Southend missed out on automatic promotion after suffering a 3-1 final day defeat at Morecambe, having gone unbeaten in their previous eight matches without conceding a goal.
They overcame that disappointment by beating Stevenage 4-2 on aggregate in the play-off semi-finals and Worrall "can't wait" to step out on to the Wembley turf.
"It is the greatest football achievement for me yet," he said. "I am so excited, I can't wait until Saturday."