The death of a child is the worst thing that can happen to us. However, some of us also have to bear the burden of a society that may be harshly critical of our child, for a variety of reasons.
These include deaths resulting from drug, alcohol, and solvent abuse; prostitution; illnesses such as anorexia; dangerous recreational activities; involvement in crime; accidents where there has been a responsibility for the deaths of others; and suicide. When these circumstances exist, some people may express opinions such as "He brought it on himself," or "It was her choice," and believe that our grief is not worthy of the same respect or sympathy shown to others.
Some people either never speak about what has happened or unwittingly say hurtful things. We may hear comments like, "He was grown-up and living his own life," or "You couldn't have been responsible for her actions”. On top of the usual difficult questions we have the problem of deciding how to reply to "How did your child die?”
Our friends may not know what to say to us, but we too may be locked in silence even though we want to share our feelings. We may find that it is easier to unburden ourselves to a complete stranger.
TCF’s leaflet Coping With Judgemental Attitudes looks at the trauma, conflict and anxiety we may have suffered before our child died; the strain of pretending everything was all right to the outside world; the shame we may feel when our child has died in a way that others may consider anti-social; the guilt we may feel that we were not able to save them; or the frightening nature of our contradictory feelings.
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.