Grieving The Loss Of A Child
The loss of a child is the most stressful and inconsolable of losses to deal with. It violates the natural order of things and it’s not fair for an innocent to see their dreams unfulfilled. As parents, we may feel we are solely responsible for the well-being of our children and we may feel like we have failed our child.
Often we don’t know what to say or do for grieving parents, so we do nothing. However, the month of July is designated as Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, a time for supporting friends and loved ones who’ve experienced the stress and loss of a child.
Seeing It Happen To Other Families
I watched as my husband`s parents grieved for the loss of their son, my husband`s only sibling. I watched how my brother-in-law`s wife`s parents grieved for the loss of their daughter. Together they were killed by a drunk and drugged driver. Their pain was evident and their grieving styles so different, as was the responses of their family and friends.
There are so many expressions of grief after the loss of a child, that often it is hard to sort out how a bereaved parent is really coping. Click to tweet
These are a few of the expressions described at http://www.kulkkula.com/bereavementawareness/parents.htm:
Often people will comment on how well they are doing, but it could be, they just don`t believe that it has really happened.
The bereaved parent may feel or appear disoriented, restless, numb, bewildered, stunned and unable to think.
Crying is helpful to release all that pent-up emotion.
The bereaved parent may lack or have an increase of appetite; sleeplessness or oversleeping; knot or emptiness in pit of stomach; tightness in throat; shaky legs; headaches; trembling; chills; fatigue; chest pains; general achiness; difficulty swallowing and/or speaking; digestive disorders (indigestion, nausea, diarrhea); feeling weak or faint; tension; slower in speech or movement; temporary paralysis of limb or sight.
The bereaved parent may subconsciously be searching for their child when out in a crowd or when they open the door.
“WHY” seems to need to be asked repeatedly in an effort to make sense of the loss.
The bereaved parent may repeat the same things to the same people.
Reality of Death:
This is a frightening time as it may seem as if the bereaved parent is going backwards.
The simplest decisions may seem impossible and the bereaved parent may have difficulty concentrating.
The bereaved parent may only see their child as perfect and may compare themselves or others to that loved one
The bereaved parent may seek to identify with their child by wearing their clothes or taking up a sport they liked.
The bereaved parent may fear being alone or be worried about the future. They may feel like they are losing control or are “going crazy.”
The parent may try to bargain with God that “things will be different;” or that they will try to be a better person if only their child can be alive again.
Sometimes the bereaved parent may hurt so much that they just don’t care about anything. It may be an effort just to get out of bed, to shop, or fix a simple meal.
This phase comes and goes and the bereaved parent may be able to recall the fun times.
A bereaved parent’s confidence is often undermined.
The bereaved parent may think of nothing but the loss.
Bereaved parents tend to blame themselves for something they did or didn’t do that may have contributed to the death, or for things that wished that they had done for their child.
Anger is normal. Pushing down anger is harmful.
The bereaved parent may feel intense loneliness due to the absence of their child, because they are unable to share thoughts and feelings, to touch, or to be understood.
The bereaved parent may feel as if there would be little difference if they lived or died. They may have suicidal thoughts.
These feelings seem to pervade their life.
The bereaved parent may feel that they are unable to help themselves or others cope, or get better.
They may feel jealous of people who still have their child.
They may be disappointed that they are not coping as well as everyone thinks they should.
Bereaved parents may feel resentful about the death and their changed circumstances.
The bereaved parent may reach an in-between point between the reality of death and the point where life seems worthwhile again.
The good days outbalance the bad days and they may feel encouraged that they will get better.
The bereaved parent will always miss their child and special events may trigger the feeling of longing even more.
Struggle with New Life Patterns:
The bereaved parent starts to rebuild a new life that will be different but can be enjoyed.
Life is Worth Living:
Eventually the bereaved parent may be able to think and talk about their child with happiness and a sense of peace.
The bereaved parent may overcompensate for how they are really feeling or may not ask for help and can complicate the grief process.
Beverly`s Hot Tips For Building Resiliency Through Bereaved Parents Awareness Month:
- Don`t avoid the parents. The child`s death may make you very uncomfortable and it may make you contemplate the mortality of your own children. It is okay for you to not know what to say or how to help. A listening ear may be what they need the most. I love the sentiment that one parent received from a friend: “Grieve well. One day you will cease to remember him with tears and instead remember him with smiles.”
- For many, the first year after a child’s death can be the most difficult. Anniversaries, birthdays and holidays will trigger pain and tears. Don`t avoid these dates but provide an opportunity for the parent to grieve and remember and not feel like they must hold the grief under control.
Be aware and provide support for both the health of the bereaved parents and their relationships.
- According to research, bereaved mothers and fathers experience more physical and emotional issues than do non-bereaved parents, including severe depression, mortality due to illness and suicide.
- Irreparable damage can be made to the family or their marriage. It is estimated that over 70% of marriages where a child has died, end in separation or divorce.
Grief is a normal and natural reaction to the death of a loved one but when it is your child`s death, it can be even more intense and devastating. Click to tweet
It is not something that you prepare yourself for as you do when you experience the loss of an aging parent or partner. Grieving parents may think, do, and say things that are very unlike who they really are and as their family and friends, our job is to be there for them and not judge their reactions as justified or unfair.
In loving memory of Ed and Tina and for our parents Carol, Al, Dave and Norma.
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!