Coping with the Loss of A Child
The death of a child is undoubtedly the most tragic thing a parent can go through. The grieving process for parents is different, even if they have lost someone close before. If you have lost a child, know first of all your role as your child’s parent is still intact and that you are not to blame for their death. No matter the age of your child or the condition in which they passed, your child’s loss will take time for you to be at peace with.
Guilt and grief
Often, parents feel an overwhelming sense of guilt at losing a child. Guilt is pressure on your past self. In order to free yourself from that guilt, you need to understand the root cause of that guilt. Your child’s death is not your fault and could not have been prevented. It is an unrealistic notion. If you feel guilty about what you did not get to say to your child, write them a letter. Your guilt may even be rooted in how you feel after their death. Grief presents itself in many ways. If you feel that you are not grieving “enough,” do not worry about that. The amount of pain you feel does not equate to how much you love your child.
Be patient with yourself.
Grief is a process. This process can take years. You will grieve your child over and over again. Be patient with yourself. Do not expect that you will ever “be over” your child’s death. Grief may cause you to feel sadness or anger or nothing at all. For some, grief will leave you alone for a long time, and then one day appears again like an unwelcome visitor. Grief can be triggered by small things, like your child’s favorite ice cream at the grocery store. Your child’s birthday and holidays will probably difficult days. This is okay. You are allowed to grieve.
Focus on the present.
Some parents choose to immediately pack away their child’s things, while others keep their rooms as they were. Whichever gives you comfort at the time should be your choice. You will probably always wonder about the person your child would have grown up to be and about their life. While this is normal, this can bring extra pain into your life. Try to focus on your present, instead of what could have been, to help you see a brighter future.
Take care of yourself.
Grief can also present itself in physical symptoms, such as digestion upset, aches and pains, insomnia, and any physical problems you already have can be exacerbated. Be sure to take good care of your physical health, even on days when it is difficult. Eat healthily, get exercise and fresh air. Take your dog on an extra walk around the block. Drink water with dinner instead of a drink. Taking care of your body can help ease physical symptoms of grief as well as ward off illnesses.
While nothing can completely ease your pain, at least for a while, you can keep the memory of your child close to you with a piece of remembrance jewelry. Some parents keep a lock of hair or other small remembrances in a piece of jewelry. This provides some comfort and is unique and highly personalized.
Accept help from others.
If you have other children, you may find yourself filled with anxiety over their wellbeing. You may need some extra help caring for them for a while. Remember that you are not alone in your grief. Your child’s loss is a family loss as well as your own. Share the burden with loved ones to lighten the load. Your family needs you as much as you need them. Sticking close to friends and family can remind you not to do anything you would not normally do. It is important to try not to make any major life decisions, such as buying a house, deciding to marry, or switching careers immediately after losing your child. You need time to be at peace with your new life.
Grief is a normal cycle of life, but it can be overwhelming. There are tools that can help manage grief and help you work through your grief. Seek out a local support group for parents who have lost a child. These types of groups are usually held in community centers and churches. Get involved in charity or volunteer work, perhaps in memory of your child. Take up a new hobby or class, something you’ve been interested in for a while. Doing new things can give you something to focus on besides your grief. It is not a distraction, but a reminder that you are not your grief. Professional counseling or therapy is another recommending course of action after a major loss.
Be patient and gentle with yourself. Your child’s life and memory live in your heart. You can make it through your grief.