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Grief and Loss: Loss of a Child

April 04, 2020

Grief and Loss: Loss of a Child

Losing a child is the most devastating pain a parent could face.  The future is forever changed and the grieving may last a lifetime.  There are many types of loss including miscarriage, stillbirth, kidnapping, violence, accidents, and illness.  Even the death of an adult child can devastate a parent, as it is unnatural for a parent to outlive their child. 

What is Parental Grief?

While everyone experiences loss to some capacity, the grief process is unique.  No two people will grieve the same way, and each person’s timetable for healing will differ.  Many factors influence parental grieving.  Cultural norms, religious beliefs, and the specifics of how the child died can all influence how a parent grieves his or her child.  Some instances such as an illness or accident, are a visible loss of a child, while a miscarriage can be a less visible, but no less painful, separation. 

 

There are typically five main stages of grief a person experiences.  They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Grieving is intensely personal, and no one should determine what is “grief-worthy” for another.  There are also many underlying layers of grief.  Parents will mourn the child, but they will also experience additional feelings of loss, such as the child’s smell, voice, laugh, cry, the future memories never to be made, etc.

 

Symptoms of Parental Grief

Losing a child can result in a number of emotional responses.  Parents can be depressed, angry, shocked or confused.  Many struggle with feelings of guilt and fear for their other children’s health or safety.  Some parents may resent families with healthy children, feel that life is meaningless, or question their faith and beliefs.  They can become angry with their spouse for grieving and coping differently than they do. 

 

There are a variety of physical symptoms that can accompany grief.  Changes in sleeping or eating patterns, loss of appetite, lack of concentration, and fatigue are common grief effects.  Some parents may no longer enjoy activities that once brought great pleasure, and if symptoms worsen, they may even contemplate suicide. 

 

Helping the Grieving Process

Though parents will always mourn the loss of a child, healing is possible.  The following is a list of helpful insights for grieving parents:

  • Seek support- Grieving parents do not need to mourn alone. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, as family therapists and counselors have special knowledge that can help you through the grieving process in a healthy way. Communities of faith also provide an outlet to share your feelings, and support groups can provide a safe place to meet others who have gone through the same experience.
  • Keep a routine- When you are grieving it’s important to have some stability in your week. Having some fun, comforting, and familiar activities to look forward to can help you and any other children feel safety and a measure of normalcy. 
  • Stay open- Talking about your child might seem difficult at first, but remembering them can help the healing process. When memories and stories are brought up, use your child’s name and reminisce openly with others.  Never feel like you are inconveniencing others with your grief.   
  • Plan for holidays- Special days, holidays, and your child’s birthday will be difficult, especially the first anniversary of them. Plan ahead for this time.  How do you want to remember the child?  Would you like to be home or away, occupied or contemplative?  The best plan for the day is anything that will benefit you and your family’s healing. 
  • Say no to guilt- Don’t beat yourself up when housework or other responsibilities slide. When you need help, ask for it.  People might want to help but not know how to best do so, so it’s important to be specific or give examples when you ask for support. 
  • Care for other children- There are some specific things to consider when you have additional children, as everyone is grieving in his or her own way.
    • Include them- Siblings will grieve in their own ways. Inquire if they want to participate in a memorial service or find another way to honor their sibling.  This will provide a way for them to remember their sibling, validate their sense of loss, and move towards healing.
    • Avoid comparison- Children should never be compared to their sibling who died. Otherwise, they will assume the responsibility of trying to fill the void and replace the child you have lost. 
    • Be aware- Some parents will cling to their other children and act in an overprotective manner out of fear. Others may be overly permissive.  If you feel like you cannot give your other children the attention they need, ask a friend or family member to help. 

Mourning the loss of a child will not go away overnight.  The pain may last a lifetime, but there are ways to find meaning after the loss.  Consider how you might want to honor your child’s life and create a lasting legacy to honor them.  Some might hold a memorial service, volunteer, or contribute to a cause their child appreciated.  Any way that reminds a grieving parent of their child in a healthy, positive manner will help their transition process toward acceptance. 

 

Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.

 

Sources:

https://www.aamft.org/imis15/content/consumer_updates/grieving_the_loss_of_a_child.aspx

http://www.cancer.net/coping-and-emotions/managing-emotions/grief-and-loss/grieving-loss-child

 

 

 

 

 




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