Grief seems insurmountable, simply daily tasks appear impossible and looking toward any sort of future simply feels unbearable. Losing a child is every parents’ worst nightmare – and despite this realm of bereavement being considered the most severe of all, understanding of this grief is typically poor, with friends and family of those grieving commonly retracting support. In this blog article we explore the terrible process of grieving a child – and explain how, whilst seeming an impossibility now, there will be light in your life once more – albeit for a completely different life to the one you knew before.
Four unforeseen anguishes of grieving a child
Grief is an all-encompassing process – and whilst the majority of us have, at some point, lost someone we loved and grieved for them, losing a child throws up many unexpected experiences, an overview of which follows:
1. Memories emerge from the immediate time before and after the loss – and they become clearer by the day
Whilst ‘time being a healer’ is a well-worn and misleading phrase, for the parents who have lost a child quite the opposite is true. Many parents report the day, and time, immediately before and after their child’s death as becoming more vivid, remembering what was said to them, what they said to others and the way in which their child looked when the realisation came that they’d passed.
2. Connections made with fellow parents who’ve lost a child represents support unlike any other
A vast majority of parents, siblings and loved ones find that connecting with others who’ve also lost a child is the only way in which they may feel truly understood. After all, who can truly appreciate the pain of this grief without having lived it first hand?
3. Weeks, months, years – they are drastically different for you, and those around you
The passage of time throws up another unexpected factor when grieving – that those around you stop calling, visiting and offering support as the weeks, months and years wear on. This can feel surprisingly cold – as you watch others return to normality and continue as before whilst you’re frozen in limbo, unable to progress past the first day of your loss.
4. Support may be slowly withdrawn
Finally, and as we opened this article, the support that others provide can often wane. People around you, to whom you may have been incredibly close, may begin to call less or may avoid mentioning your child. This issue is not one of malice or a lack of care. Rather it is born out of fear for saying the wrong thing, and is also a symptom where your grief is not as apparent to those around you.
The most commonly asked question of all: Can you move on after losing a child?
Those who have lost a child will likely be frequently be met with comments such as “such a loss will take time to get over” – and for the parent or loved one of the deceased child this can feel nothing short of an shatteringly painful insult – even with the best will in the world.
The term ‘getting over’ conjures up images of forgetting, accepting and continuing as you were before – yet anyone who has experienced this loss knows that this is impossible, despite any passage of time.
We should look instead to ‘moving on’, which is far from forgetting, and not about a pain that lessens; rather this is about being able to function from day to day, to find joy in life once more and to recover emotionally enough to be able to do so.
Moving on represents a new reality – a world that won’t ever be the same again, but equally an existence that does matter, and that does offer hope. It is in this sense that parents may ‘move on’, despite this term being far from a term, as any phrase could be, to properly describing the process following a child’s death.
You haven’t lost only your most loved person…
You’ve also lost a future of hopes and dreams
When you lose a child there’s an unfathomable loss of the future – of hopes, dreams and presumptions for a future filled with happiness and memories to be made.
For the years that are to come you will feel continual reminders of your loss – birthdays, milestones, special events – all of which foster imaginations as to what your child may be doing now.
When you lose a child, you must commit to the grieving process – allow yourself to step back and avoid filling your time in an attempt to delay emotions. Retreat, for a time at least, from the world around you and come to terms with all that has happened –grieve your child, and the future you once imagined.
Rest assured, however, that there is a future for you – a future that has memories still to be made and joy to be found. This seems impossible, even ridiculous or cruel at the moment, yet Dennis Class, who is a professor of bereavement studies at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, summarises this future best when she says:
“Parents who have lost a children-solve the matters of how to be themselves in a family and community in a way that makes life meaningful. They learn to grow in those parts of themselves that did not die with the child. They learn to invest themselves in other tasks and other relationships. But somewhere inside themselves, they report, there is a sense of loss that cannot be healed.”
Exploring the options before you in terms of child bereavement support may be one of the most important steps that you take in terms of any form of recovery. Whilst the first step may be a daunting one, it’s often also a vital one if you’re to receive the help, support and guidance that you need as you experience the worst time of your life. Here’s an overview of organisations that offer everything from a friendly ear to listen, to complete support packages including counselling.
Child Bereavement UK
Child Bereavement UK provides support to families who have lost a baby, or a child of any age; they also provide support for families who have a child who is dying.
Tel: 0800 02 888 40
Cruse Bereavement is an organisation that helps every person who has been bereaved – whomever they have lost. They offer online and telephone support.
Tel: 0808 808 1677
The Compassionate Friends
The Compassionate Friends is an organisation that aims to help the bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents of those who’ve lost a child; their services span friendship, support and help with access to professional services.
Tel: 0345 123 2304
Care for the Family/Bereaved Parent Support
This charity is founded on the mission to promote strong family life. The Bereaved Parent Support is an extension of the Care for the Family charity, offering a befriending scheme, as well as article and video resources. Finally they additionally provide a telephone support line.
Tel: 029 2081 0800
Thank you to Funeral Services Guide for contributing this article. http://www.FuneralServicesGuide.com
Updated: August 30, 2016