There’s no pain like that which a parent feels when they lose a child.
It’s an indescribable pain caused by something completely unnatural. No parent wants to outlive their child.
But at times, illnesses and accidents take us by surprise.
How can a parent cope with the loss of a son or daughter?
The Grieving Process – What Parents Need to Know to Cope
Even if your child has been sick for a long time, there’s really no way to prepare for that loss.
What you can do, though, is understand the grieving process.
What can you expect to experience?
The loss of a son or daughter is not only a heartbreaking experience, it has a major impact on your day-to-day life. This is especially true if the child was very young. Most of your day revolved around the child and their routine.
That all changes now, and getting used to it will take some time.
You may feel lost, not knowing how to go about your day.
As horrible as it feels, this is actually normal and you’ll slowly transition to a new routine.
Losing a child can make parents feel especially angry because it’s simply not fair.
Parents can also feel guilty because they weren’t “strong enough” to save their child, or because they feel that no parent should outlive their child.
If you feel this way, please know that you’re not alone.
Getting through the grief after losing a child is especially intense, and it’s ok to ask for help. Seek the assistance of a grief counselor or attend support group meetings. Knowing you aren’t alone will help you find some solace.
How to Help Your Spouse and/or Children Cope with Their Loss
The loss of a child can results in so much emotional pain and turmoil that family members don’t know how to deal with or express their feelings.
Oftentimes, this leads to a lack of communication and misunderstandings, both of which can result in family members drifting apart.
While this happens quite often, there are plenty of families that actually grow stronger after the death of a loved one.
How can you make your family grow stronger? The best way is to help your spouse and your other children through their grief.
You can do this by doing your best to understand what they’re going through.
Mothers, for instance, often feel helpless after losing a child. They share a special bond with their children because of the closeness of pregnancy and nursing. After losing a child, mothers often question their value. They lose their confidence, questioning whether they’re really a good parent or not.
Fathers often feel angry and weak. They’re supposed to be the strong one, the protector of the family. Not being able to protect a child from illness or fatal injury can make them question their value as well.
When parents lose their confidence, it can be easy to pull away from their partner. They can’t fully express how they’re feeling. And they’re fearful that their partner views them in the same negative light that they view themselves.
During this time, spouses need to take some time to comfort and reassure each other of their love and avoid placing blame on the other parent. Marriage counseling can be incredibly helpful during times of grief when it can be difficult and intimidating to express emotions fully without assistance.
What about your child’s siblings?
You have experienced the loss of a son or daughter, and they have experienced the loss of one of their best friends.
Death can be a difficult concept for adults to grasp. Children are no different. They tend to be very black and white. If something isn’t fair – like the death of a loved one – they have a hard time processing it.
What children need during this time is not just comfort, they need answers, too.
Be willing to answer questions that arise. Use language they can understand, but be straightforward and honest. And don’t always wait until your child asks a question. It can be extremely helpful and comforting to them if you broach the subject during an emotionally calm period.
Live a Life That Would Make Your Child Proud
When a parent loses a child, it can feel hard to go on with life. The sadness and grief can be overwhelming, as can the guilt. Nearly every parent would trade places with their child if they had the choice.
Unfortunately, it’s not up to us, but what we can do is live a life our child would want us to – one full of happiness and hope.
The idea of a happy life at the beginning of the grieving process seems far-fetched. But it can become an eventuality.
You will never forget your child – ever.
Down the road, though, the pain will feel a little less raw, and you’ll be able to see more light in the world. It’s the light of happiness, hope, joy, and love that you wanted your child to experience. And it is the light that they would want you to experience, too.