Grieving the Death of a Child
Nothing can prepare you for grieving the death of a child. For many parents, it can feel as though the natural order of things has been upset: A parent is not supposed to outlive their child.
If you have lost a child, you may feel that nobody can possibly understand what you are going through. It may even feel like a loss of your identity, particularly if you lost your only child. Are you still a parent? Who are you without him or her?
If you are grieving the death of a child and grappling with these and other difficult questions, please know that you are not alone. Although it might seem impossible right now, a path toward healing is possible. No matter what, know that you are now, and will always be, a parent.
What you are feeling is normal.
Certain emotions, such as shock, denial and despair, are considered “normal” for a grieving person. According to Cancer.net, grieving parents often experience a spectrum of other emotions after the loss of a child. Many parents feel guilt over not having protected their child, or resentment toward other parents for having healthy children.
These and other negative feelings do not mean you are uncompassionate or that you wish harm upon others. It is simply part of processing the unimaginable grief you are experiencing.
“Although parents mourning the loss of a child are, in many ways, experiencing classic grief responses — the usual battery of psychological, biological, and social repercussions — there are many unique challenges,” wrote Joshua A. Krisch for the parenting resource, Fatherly. “The trauma is often more intense, the memories and hopes harder to let go of. As such, the mourning process is longer and the potential for recurring or near-constant trauma is far greater.”
You don’t have to grieve alone.
If you have family or friends to lean on during this difficult time – such as a spouse or other children – do not push them away.
Cancer.net recommends making grief a shared family experience. Although you may need some time alone to process your feelings, it’s never a good idea to isolate yourself from others. Find your support system and be there for each other. If you find yourself struggling to connect with your spouse or other children, consider seeking a family therapist for help. Even if others experience grief in a different way, you can still find comfort in each other.
It’s OK to heal.
For parents grieving the death of a child, feeling hopeful about the future can feel like a betrayal.
“Parents who experience complicated grief after the death of a child often feel trapped between the unbearable weight of their grief and a reluctance to release themselves from that grief,” wrote Elisabet Kvarnstrom for Bridges to Recovery, an online mental health resource. “After all, if grief is an expression of love, what does it mean if you stop grieving?”
When grieving the death of a child, it’s important to remember that feeling hope for the future does not mean you love, or miss, your child any less. You will never “get over” the grief of losing a child, but life will continue to go in. In fact, coping with your grief in a healthy way will allow you to cherish your child’s memory, according to Kvarnstrom.
“Seeking treatment for complicated grief allows you to re-contextualize your loss and release yourself from being consumed by it,” she wrote, “giving you the ability to restore functioning and move toward healthy ways of honoring both yourself and your child that do not compromise your ability to live.”
Allow yourself the space to grieve, but also to heal. Cherish the memory of your child as you look toward the future. Speak of them often. He or she will always be part of you – and part of your family.
Bevis Funeral Home is committed to helping you through this difficult time. Whether you need resources or online counseling services, you are not alone. Click here to access our Grief & Healing resources.