GRIEF THE DEATH OF A CHILD

(This article is dedicated to Milo Myers and his parents.)


The death and loss of a child is frequently called the ultimate tragedy. Nothing can be more devastating. Along with the usual symptoms and stages of grief, there are many issues that make parental bereavement particularly difficult to resolve. And this grief over the loss of a child can be exacerbated and complicated by feelings of injustice — the understandable feeling that this loss never should have happened. During the early days of grieving, most parents experience excruciating pain, alternating with numbness — a dichotomy that may persist for months or longer. Many parents who have lost their son or daughter report they feel that they can only “exist” and every motion or need beyond that seems nearly impossible. It has been said that coping with the death and loss of a child requires some of the hardest work one will ever have to do. The relationship between parents and their children is among the most intense in life. Much of parenting centers on providing and doing for children, even after they have grown up and left home. A child’s death robs you of the ability to carry out your parenting role as you have imagined it, as it is “supposed” to be. You may feel an overwhelming sense of failure for no longer being able to care for and protect your child, duties that you expected to fulfill for many years. It must be remembered that bereaved parents can mourn the death and loss of a child of any age, and that it feels unnatural to outlive a child. It does not make a difference whether your child is three or thirty-three when your son or daughter dies. The emotion is the same. All bereaved parents lose a part of themselves. Surviving the death and loss of a child takes a dedication to life. As a parent, you gave birth to life as a promise to the future. Now you must make a new commitment to living, as hard or impossible as it may seem right now. You will survive this; however, the experience may change you.
Common responses to a child’s death
Shock: After the death and loss of a child you may initially feel numb, which is your mind’s way of shielding you from the pain. Denial: Your child can’t be dead. You expect to see your son or daughter walk through the door, or to hear a cry on the baby monitor. Replay: After the death and loss of a child your mind may center on the “what if’s” as you play out scenarios in which your child could have been saved. Yearning: Many parents report praying obsessively to have even five more minutes with their child so they can tell them how much they love them. Confusion: After the death and loss of a child your memory may become clouded. You may find yourself driving and not remembering where you’re going. Because your mind is trying to process such a huge shock, normal memory functions can be precluded, putting you in a “haze.” You may at times even question your sanity, though you are not crazy. Your pain is affecting your emotional and psychological systems at an extreme level — a sense of being on overload is common. Guilt: Guilt appears to be one of the most common responses to dealing with the death of a child. Parents often mentally replay their actions prior to the death and wonder what they may have done differently. Powerlessness: In addition to feelings of guilt, parents often have a sense of powerlessness that is attributed to feeling that they were not able to protect their child from harm. Anger: Anger and frustration are also feelings reported by most parents and are common to grief in general. If your child’s death was accidental, these emotions may be intensified. You may also be angry that life seems to go on for others — as if nothing has happened. Loss of hope: After the death and loss of a child you are grieving not only for your child, but also for the loss of your hopes, dreams and expectations for that child. Time will not necessarily provide relief from this aspect of grief. Parents often experience an upsurge of grief at the time they would have expected their child to start school, graduate, get married, etc. Parents are rarely prepared for these triggers and the wave of grief they bring. Be aware of these triggers, and allow yourself to grieve. This is a normal, appropriate and necessary part of the healing process.

Ref: https://healgrief.org/grieving-the-death-of-a-child/

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