DEALING WITH LOSING A CHILD:
Now that you have made arrangements
for your child's burial, you may wonder how you will be
able to move on with life. One of the first steps to healing
is to give yourself time to grieve. Getting over the loss
of a child is a painful and long process that can be physically
and emotionally draining. Although the grief can at times
become unbearable, grieving is healthy and essential for
recovery. Some people try to suppress or deny it, but when
grief is ignored, it will eventually manifest in different
and sometimes harmful ways in the future.
Grieving will involve passing through many overlapping emotional phases. It
has been said that the pain we experience during the grieving process (emotional,
spiritual, mental and physical) is a tribute to the love we have for that person.
It is important to remember that the pain of losing someone does subside over
time and people do discover that there is hope after death.
Your spiritual and religious beliefs may offer some consolation. If you have
some spiritual concerns, schedule a meeting with your rabbi, minister or priest
to talk about what is troubling you. Ask for their support in renewing your
faith and helping you come to terms with your child's death.
There are many self-help books and articles written about dealing with grief
that may also give you some direction. A quick source of information about
grief and the healing process is Hospice
Net, which gives the following advice for getting through this difficult
- Acknowledge and express your feelings
openly. Talk about it with friends, bereavement counselors,
clergy or support groups.
- Take care of yourself - physically
and spiritually. This means rest, relaxation, exercise,
nourishment, and diversions.
- Don't blame yourself.
- Learn about grief through books,
articles, and poetry that provides understanding, comfort
- Give yourself time to grieve and
be patient with yourself, your spouse and your surviving
children. Trust your ability to heal.
- Initially, set small goals and live
one day at a time. Take small steps towards enjoying
life again and do not feel guilty about indulging yourself
- Consider keeping a journal and writing
down your thoughts and memories. Or write letters and
poems to your child.
- Don't be too quick to make big decisions
or changes. Wait a few months before you clean up or
donate your child's things.
Grieving is a very personal journey
and each person takes a different path at a different pace
to recovery. This is one reason why misunderstandings surface
among family members and why it is so important to recognize
and accept differences in grieving style.
Children And Grief
The death of a brother or sister can
be just as traumatic to your surviving children. You should
be sensitive and aware of your children's response to death.
They may feel the same feelings as you - fear, denial,
sadness, anger, and guilt - but react based on their age
and experience. Preschool children usually see death as
temporary and reversible similar to the cartoon characters
that they watch on television. Children between five and
nine begin to realize that death is permanent but still
view it as something impersonal. From ten onwards, children
begin to comprehend that death is irreversible and that
all living things die eventually.
What your children need from you is age appropriate information, comfort and
understanding. Encourage your children to show their feelings freely and let
them know it is okay to talk about it. While you may also want to share your
feelings with them, be careful not to burden them with too many concerns. An
article that gives you more information on how to relate to your child is "Talking
to Children About Death". If your children show signs of severe depression,
withdrawal or unusual behavior, a child or adolescent psychiatrist can help
them deal with the mourning process.
As you move forward with your life, try to avoid the pitfalls that some grieving
families fall into. This includes being overly protective of your surviving
or future children, making unfair comparisons of them to the child that died,
or blaming them for your unhappiness.
It can be extremely isolating for parents
who are left childless. Suddenly you may feel like you
are caught between two groups- people with kids and people
without kids - unable to fully identify with either group.
Even though you probably could relate better to parents
than couples without children, you no longer have a child
in your life. Consequently, it may be difficult for you
to visit friends with children of similar age to your departed
child. There is the added dilemma of deciding what to tell
acquaintances when they unknowingly ask, "do you have children?" or "how
many children you have?". Understandingly, you may shy
away from social gatherings simply to avoid these awkward
and upsetting moments.
In these situations, you may feel like the only person with a tragic story.
But actually, there are many families that have experienced the grief of losing
a young child. Sadly, they understand what you are going through. Your clergy,
grief counselor or your child's doctor can suggest a support group that you
can identify with. Sharing with others who have experienced a similar loss
can be comforting and reassuring. Knowing what helped them and realizing that
they have recovered may give you hope and strength for the future.
If you still find yourself in great distress or long-term depression, individual
therapy from a grief counselor may be necessary. Sessions with a trained professional
can help you recognize your feelings and put them in perspective. You can ask
your doctor or healthcare provider for a referral and explanation of medical
Keeping Communication Open
Losing a child can affect a couple
profoundly. It is not unusual for a marital relationship
to become strained after the death of a child. After such
a devastating life event, the stress of coping, along with
feelings of abandonment, indifference, frustration and
anger, can destroy a marriage. In fact, experts report
that 80% of marriages where a child has died end in divorce.
It is a tragedy when the grief of losing a child is compounded
with the pain of divorce. To prevent this from happening,
couples' counseling with a grief therapist is recommended
even for the strongest of marriages.
While it may be hard to support your spouse when you are hurting yourself,
listening and tending to the needs of your spouse is very important to the
survival of a marriage during a difficult period. Your spouse is the only person
that truly understands how deeply you hurt. Instead of isolating yourself with
your grief, try to spend some quality time with your spouse talking about how
you are feeling and how you will both approach the future together.
It is important to acknowledge that men and women communicate and grieve in
very different ways. Women tend to be more expressive, emotional and open to
seeking support from others. Women may feel lonely or cheated when they see
their spouse carrying on with life as if nothing happened. On the other hand,
men usually are less likely to express their feelings and prefer to solve problems
on their own. Rather than seek support or talk about it, men may withdraw or
bury themselves in other activities (i.e. working late, sports, or watching
TV) to avoid thinking of their depression or grief. Both parties may get frustrated
when the man feels compelled to give advice and the woman expects support and
understanding. If you both realize that these communication and grieving differences
exist, you may be able to prevent some misunderstandings and conflicts in your
relationship from occurring.
As you struggle together and separately to come to terms with your loss, keep
in mind these tips from the experts.
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- Assure one another of your commitment
to the relationship.
- Keep the lines of communication
open and share your thoughts and emotions with your
- Be caring of each other's feelings
- Acknowledge each other's pain and
accept your differences in grieving.
- Resume old friendships and seek
new ones both separately and as a couple.
- Find ways to remember your child