When our child dies without warning, the shock and disbelief we suffer is overwhelming. Every child’s death is difficult to bear, but it can be even more devastating when the death is sudden, whether as a result of violence, suicide, a health emergency, an accident such as drowning, or from any other cause. There will be no future opportunity to say the things we would want to or resolve misunderstandings. There was no chance to prepare, but mostly there was no opportunity to say goodbye.
Shock is often the body’s first response to such news. Any sense of detachment and disbelief soon gives way to a bewildering array of strong emotions. We might torture ourselves with thoughts of what might have done to prevent our child’s death. Over time the burden of guilt and blame can move from being a main focus of our grief to a level of realisation that many tragedies are neither preventable nor foreseeable.
An unexpected death will often result in legal formalities and police involvement. You can find out more this, including advice about coping with inquests, on our legal help page.
Finding ways of managing our daily lives now is a real challenge for many bereaved parents. It is difficult to watch the world continue as usual when everything has changed for us. It is important to find fitting ways to remember and honour our child. This can be as simple as including our child’s name often in conversation, telling stories and sharing memories, or hosting significant memorial gatherings.
Support groups can be very helpful in terms of countering feelings of isolation commonly felt by newly bereaved parents. It really helps to know that however dreadful this situation is, we do not have to suffer on our own. The Compassionate Friends run local support groups and larger meetings, as well as a private online forum and Facebook groups and a grief companion scheme.
We will never "get over" the loss of our child, but we can find ways to cope, and eventually, to live positively. We deserve to experience happiness, and to truly live rather than merely survive. This does not mean forgetting our child. Most of us want to live in ways that our child would be proud of. We may become involved with charity work or find other ways of honouring our child’s memory. As the terrible rawness of grief softens, what remains intact is our bond of love with our child, a love that continues and grows with us.
For more on this topic, see The Sudden Death of our Child
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.