The Loss of a Child

Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Never forget that the death of your child changes your life forever.

The experience of grief is powerful. So, too, is your ability to help yourself heal. In doing the work of grieving, you are moving toward a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in your life.

Allow Yourself to Mourn
With the death of your child, your hopes, dreams and plans for the future are turned upside down. The death of a child results in the most profound bereavement. This article provides practical suggestions to help you move toward healing in your personal grief experience.

Realize Your Grief is Unique
Your grief is unique. No one will grieve in exactly the same way.

Allow Yourself to Feel Numb
Feeling dazed or numb when your child dies may well be a part of your early grief experience. You may feel as if the world has suddenly come to a halt. This numbness serves a valuable purpose: it gives your emotions time to catch up with what your mind has told you.

This Death is "Out of Order"
Because the more natural order is for parents to precede their children in death, you must readapt to a new and seemingly illogical reality. This shocking reality says that even though you are older and have been the protector and provider, you have survived while your child has not. This can be so difficult to comprehend.

Expect to Feel a Multitude of Emotions
The death of your child can result in a variety of emotions. Confusion, disorganization, fear, guilt, anger and relief are just a few of the emotions you may feel. Allow yourself to learn from these feelings.

Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Emotional Limits
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you fatigued. Your ability to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired. And your low-energy level may naturally slow you down.

Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Nurture yourself.

Talk About Your Grief
When you share your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head.

Watch Out for Cliches
Cliches--trite comments some people make in attempts to diminish your loss--can be extremely painful for you to hear. While these comments may be well-intended, you do not have to accept them. You have every right to express your grief. No one has the right to take it away.

Develop a Support System
The most compassionate self-action you can do at this difficult time is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need. Seek out those people who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings -- both happy and sad.

A support group may be one of the best ways to help yourself. You will be allowed and gently encouraged to talk about your child as much, and as often, as you like.

Embrace Your Treasure of Memories
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of a child. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends.

Gather Important Keepsakes
You may want to collect some important keepsakes that help you treasure your memories. You may want to create a memory book, which is a collection of photos that represent your child's life. Some people create memory boxes to keep special keepsakes in.

Embrace Your Spirituality
If faith is part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. Find someone to talk with who won't be critical of whatever thoughts and feelings you need to explore.

Move toward Your Grief and Heal
To restore your capacity to love you must grieve when your child dies. You can't heal unless you openly express your grief. Denying your grief will only make it become more confusing and overwhelming. Embrace your grief and heal.

~Adapted from an Article by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.