The Loss of a Child

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The Loss of a Child

The loss of a child is a profound, unsettling and heartbreaking reality. As a parent, you may believe you have lost a part of yourself. The grief can be overwhelming and, while it will span the course of your life, its intensity and expression will vary over time.

Grieving parents often experience a variety of emotional and physical sensations. You may feel guilty for not being able to prevent the death or even for being alive. You may feel cheated or betrayed. You might be unable to concentrate, experience extreme anxiety, have difficulty sleeping or want to sleep all the time. You may envy other parents or feel a sense of shattered self-esteem or self-confidence.

Some people suffer in silence and avoid facing the reality of the loss. Emotional paralysis can ensue. Understand that coping with grief does not mean forgetting. The healing process helps reduce the intensity of parents’ grief. Working through grief is challenging and requires time, but when parents allow themselves to manage their grief, they invest in their healing process.

Grieving requires time and patience. You must learn to live without your child, and face your memories of that child. Here are some suggestions to help you cope:

  • If necessary, speak with your doctor and ask questions so that you can understand the circumstances surrounding your child’s death.
  • Take good care of yourself. Eat properly and get plenty of rest and exercise. Help your spouse to do the same.
  • Try to maintain your daily routines and schedules.
  • Express your pain to someone, such as a trusted friend or counselor, who will understand and acknowledge your feelings. Remember to be honest about all of your feelings.
  • Create a support system. Many hospitals have support groups for parents whose children have died, such as The Compassionate Friends, SIDS, Candlelighters and Share.
  • Build your spiritual resources daily with nature walks, poetry, prayer partners, inspirational reading or worship services.
  • Avoid idealizing your child or enshrining him or her.
  • Give yourself time to grieve for your child before having or adopting another child. When the time is right for another baby, he or she will be a special person, not a replacement.
  • If you have other children, maintain open and honest communication with them. They may not fully understand how death can happen to a child. They may also find it difficult to understand your need to grieve.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor