When your child has passed, suddenly it seems like all meaning has been drained from your life. When you wake in the morning, it’s difficult to get out of bed, much less live a “normal” life. All that was right with the world now seems wrong and you’re wondering when, or if, you’ll ever feel better.
We’ve been there ourselves and understand some of the pain you are feeling right now. We are glad that you have found us but saddened by the reason. We know that you are trying to find your way in an experience for which no one can truly be prepared.
When you’re newly bereaved, suddenly you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster where you have no idea what to expect next. Here are thoughts on some of what you may be experiencing or feeling (many of these will apply to bereaved siblings and grandparents):
Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You're more forgetful. You'll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you're going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in "little accidents" because you're in a haze.
You fear that you are going crazy.
You find there's a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened.
You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith.
Placing impossible deadlines on yourself, you go back to work, but find that your mind wanders and it's difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you'll be over "it," not understanding that you'll never be the same person you were before your child passed away – and the passage of time will not make you so.
You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written.
You find yourself filled with anger, whether it be at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child's death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying.
You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid.
Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame – you most certainly would have saved your child if you'd been given the chance.
You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right.
Either you can't sleep at all or you sleep all the time. You feel physical exhaustion even when you have slept.
You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself – it just doesn't seem that important anymore.
You're feeling anxiety and great discomfort – you're told they're panic attacks.
The tears come when you least expect them.
Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating.
Family & Social If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because its so difficult to focus on their needs while you're hurting so bad yourself
Finding the "New Me" When you're newly bereaved, you don't see how you can put one foot in front of the other, much less survive this loss. You'll never "recover" from your loss nor will you ever find that elusive "closure" they talk of on TV – but eventually you will find the "new me." You will never be the same person you were before your child passed. It may be hard to believe now, but in time and with the hard work of grieving (and there's no way around it), you will one day think about the good memories of when your child lived rather than the bad memories of how your child passed. You will even smile and, yes, laugh again someday – as hard to believe as that may seem.
How to cope with the loss of a child
No matter how deep your grief and pain, no matter how alone you feel, you are not alone.
You are not to blame for the loss of your child.
The emotions experienced after the loss of a child can range from shock, to anger, to depression and back again. You may feel like you will never be whole again.
Many parents grieving the loss of a child have trouble sleeping. If that's the case, ask a family doctor for a mild sedative. It's very important to be rested as best as you can.
Grieving mothers and fathers may express their grief differently. A grieving mother may want to talk it out, while a grieving father may suffer in silence. This may cause both parents to feel like they cannot relate to each other
Grieving fathers may seek diversions – extra work or a new project – to cope with the loss of their child, hoping these diversions help them to stop thinking about their grief. They may have a hard time asking for help It may be especially difficult if one parent works at home, surrounded by the reminders of their lost child.
In the first weeks after a baby has died, the day of the week and hour of their death will be the most difficult time. After awhile, it may be the day of the month the child died. After awhile, it will stretch out to other anniversary dates, like the child's birthday and holidays. What's important is to focus upon what you need to happen during those days - if you need to get away from it all, do that. If you want to celebrate with family, do that. But make sure you do what is most important to you during those hard days.
Name your baby – if you've experienced a stillbirth or a miscarriage and haven't named your child, yet, do so. This will help to give your baby an identity, and it will be comforting to you when friends and family call your baby by name.
Collect some mementos of your baby – you may feel too grief-stricken to think about keeping your baby's things, but it is important. Later, you will realize how meaningful these hats, pictures, or stuffed animals can be. Refer to our Making Memories page for ideas
if possible, be with your baby – even when he or she is dying. It may seem an insurmountable thing – to watch your baby die, but parents who have lost children say it is very important to do so if you can.
You'll probably be asked about an autopsy. An autopsy may provide some answers as to why your child died and help provide some closure. It's something you can elect to do or not do.
Invite friends and family to your baby's funeral. While many people may not have met your child, having your loved ones with you can be very comforting. This is a chance for public recognition of your baby, a celebration of life.
Get into your grief, not out of it – many people want to rush around, keep busy, work harder, to have another baby – all to escape the grief. It doesn't work that way. Your baby will live on forever in your heart and not acknowledging your loss may hinder the grieving process.
Take good care of yourself – grieving and loss depresses the mind and body. You may not want to eat, brush your teeth, take a shower, but you need to. Sometimes, the smallest step can make you feel very accomplished.
Write it out – write a blog or in a private journal, but the act of putting words together in sentences can mean all the difference in the world.
Get help – talk to family and friends, and don't be afraid to seek professional help from a grief counselor. There are many support groups available for grieving parents, which you may get from staff at your local hospital.
While you want to believe that you will recover quickly and entirely from the death of your child, that's rarely the case. The journey through grief takes time and much work. The days will become less painful, but there is no single date that passes that will make you feel instantly healed. The pain – and the memory of your child – will be with you forever.
Huggable Hearts is a Registered Charitable Entity under the Charities Act 2005. Registration Number CC52524.