The death of our children at any age from any circumstance is indeed one of the cruelest blows that life has to offer. The journey through this grief is a very long, dark, difficult and painful one for bereaved parents.
In the early minutes, days, weeks, months and even years of grief, we find ourselves in an all consuming grief and pain beyond description. We find it difficult to carry on our everyday lives or to think of little except our children’s death. Even our once wonderfully happy memories, shared with our children while they lived, now bring us pain for a time.
Bereaved parents do not “get over” the death of our children nor “snap out of it” as the outside world seems to think we can and should. The death of our children is not an illness or a disease from which we recover. It is a life altering change with which we must learn to live.
With the death of our children we are forced to do the “impossible”: build a new life and discover a “new normal” for ourselves and our families in a world that no longer includes our beloved children.
It is important for newly bereaved parents to know that they will experience a wide and often frightening variety of intense feelings after the death of our children.
It is also important for newly bereaved parents to understand and know that all of the feelings that you experience are very natural and normal under the circumstances.
Equally important for you to know and believe is that as much as you cannot possibly believe it, you will not always feel this powerful and all consuming grief.
But right now you must follow the instincts of your soul and allow your bodies and hearts to grieve. The grief resulting from your child’s death can not be skirted over, around or under. You must go through it in order to come out on the other side.
Be gentle and patient with yourself and your family. Allow yourself to cry, to grieve, and to retell your children’s story as often as needed and for as long as you need to.
Eventually, you will smile and find joy again. You will never forget your child; he or she will be with you in your heart and memories for as long as you live.
Some of the things you may experience or feel are:
A profound longing and emptiness.
Wanting to die. This feeling usually passes in time; for eventually you will realize that you must go on for the sake of remaining family members, yourself and your child who died.
Crying all the time or at unexpected times.
Inability to concentrate on anything, frequently misplacing items.
Questioning yourself over and over: IF only I had… or Why didn’t I...
Placing unnecessary guilt on yourself or others.
Anger with yourself, family members, God, the doctor and even your child for dying.
Fearing that you are going crazy! (very normal)
Great physical exhaustion. Grief is hard work and consumes much energy!
Difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time to avoid the pain.
Physical symptoms such as heaviness in your chest or having difficulty breathing (if these feelings persist see your physician) tightness in your throat, yawning, sighing, gasping or even hyperventilating.
Lack of appetite or over eating.
Weight gain or weight loss.
Anxiety. (Often associated with overprotective behavior toward surviving children and other family members.)
Denial of your loss, thinking that your child will return. (Denial can be effectively treated by spiritual leaders as well as psychologists. Seek help if your denial phase persists beyond a month.)
Needing to tell and retell the story of your child’s death.
Inability to function in your job.
Sensing your child’s presence or an odor or touch associated with your child.
Having difficulty grocery shopping because of seeing your child’s favorite food(s) on the shelves.
Irrationally upset with yourself if you smile or laugh, thinking how can I smile, my child is dead? (Your child will want your life to be as good and as happy as possible in spite of death’s intervention.)
Feelings as if your spouse or other family members don’t understand your grief or are not grieving as you think they should. Remember everyone grieves differently.
Losing old friends who don’t seem to understand your pain and grief.
Making new friends through support groups with members who have also experienced the death of a child and therefore understand your feelings.
Feeling like you are making progress in your grief work, then slip back into the old feelings. Grief work usually is a succession of two steps forward and one step back over a long period of time.
Becoming very frustrated with others who expect you to be “over this” in a month, six months or a year and who say so. Or even being frustrated with yourself for expecting to be “over this” too soon.
Grief work from the death of your child is a slow process. Be patient with yourself.
Keep remembering that you are not the only one who has had these experiences. These experiences are all typical, natural and normal feelings for bereaved parents. You cannot ignore them: you must work through them. It will require even more time to feel better if you try to deny your feelings. There are no timetables for grief; each person must take as long as it takes for him or her to work through these feelings. Bereaved Parents of the USA believes the grieving process can be made a little easier for you by standing with you to listen to you, to share with you, to support you, to help you to understand your grief and to help you as you work through it. We have been where you are today. We have survived and are ready to help you