For any parent there is nothing more devastating than the death of their child, however old they were when they died. Sadly some parents have to face this reality – a tragedy beyond comprehension.
When your child dies, the pain and devastation of your loss can feel overwhelming. Some of the immediate emotions in grief are shock, numbness, denial, confusion and disbelief; all of which can act as a cushion against the full impact of your loss.
As time passes some of these early emotions may begin to wear off as others emerge, including guilt, anger, loneliness, despair, sadness and regret; and because of the intensity of all of the emotions you are feeling, you may not be fully able to comprehend all that you are experiencing. These feelings and emotions are all a normal and natural response to the death of someone you love.
Every individual will process grief in his or her own unique way. Some can and will express their pain easily and openly, while others will keep their feelings locked inside. Whilst there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve, many bereaved parents have found it helpful to have some guidance and support along the way.
Grieving for a child often lasts far longer than society recognises. As each person's grief journey is unique, you may find that you, your spouse and your family are all processing your grief at different speeds and in different ways. The loss of a child isn’t something you will get over. It is something you will learn to live with and it’s important not to let others’ expectations and experiences affect your own progress. Be patient with yourself and with your family members. It also helps to be tolerant and accepting of the different approaches others may take.
Many grieving parents wonder if life will ever be good again. It is often hard to imagine ever smiling, laughing or finding joy again. While every parent will ultimately have to find their own road through grief, there is plenty of support available from those who have already been where you are today. You do not have to walk this journey on your own and you will survive.
The support of others who have experienced a similar loss can help you more fully understand the grieving process and give you hope that if others can survive this loss, so can you. Their willingness to listen and provide gentle encouragement may give you the strength, both physically and emotionally, you need to carry on. Let others help you by cooking the meals, cleaning the house or running errands; the help of others can give you the space needed to do the hard work of grieving.
Many parents turn to The Compassionate Friends for support, finding hope and comfort through sharing their story and being able to say the child's name without fear of others turning away when the tears come. Expressing your thoughts and feelings can ease the loneliness and provide an outlet for your grief in an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.
TCF’s leaflet Grief of the Newly Bereaved covers this subject in more depth.
TCF has a Facebook page and runs a weekend retreat specifically to support newly bereaved parents.
TCF also has local groups and contacts, an online forum, a quarterly journal and a postal library. Our Annual Gathering and occasional retreats provide opportunities to meet other bereaved parents and to share experiences. You can find details of these events here.
The TCF Helpline is available everyday on 0345 123 2304 (or 0288 77 88 016 in Northern Ireland).
Each year thousands of parents suffer the loss of a son or a daughter. Please help us to support families in their time of greatest need.