Tips for Coping with the Death of a Child
The death of a child can be the most devastating and difficult event in a person’s life. Everyone will deal with this profound loss differently, depending on the situation and the support systems in place. Here are some tips you may find helpful in this process:
There is no right way to grieve. There are many different feelings that this hardship can bring up, including numbness, anger, sadness and despair. It is even normal to feel relief if you have watched your child suffer an illness. Give yourself permission to feel whatever comes up and remember that each feeling will be replaced by a new feeling, and eventually the intensity of your feelings will lessen. Also, remember that grief can impact your life in ways you may not immediately recognize as grief. Be gentle with yourself as you go through this.
While you may feel the need to remain strong for the rest of your family or to keep your life from falling apart, it is important that you have somewhere and someone to go to where you can allow yourself to fall apart and be supported. If you have benefits through work, make sure to find out what the bereavement policy is. Here are a few of the many supports available to you:
Family and Friends:
Some people are uncomfortable with death and may move away from you, but others will be there wanting to provide support. It is okay to lean on them and to let them know what you need. Whether it is support in organizing a memorial, or just to talk, let them know what would be most helpful.
Sometimes we are afraid to burden our family and friends or we are not sure they would understand. A professional counselor can provide a non-judgemental ear and a shoulder to cry on, and may be able to offer other resources for getting support in your area.
There may be a bereavement group in your area where you can listen to and talk to other parents coping with the loss of a child. It can be a relief to know you are not alone.
You will be unable to care for anyone else if you don't care for yourself. Here are a few tips for self-care after such a traumatic loss:
- Take your time. This might mean taking some time off work, or not if staying busy helps.
- Don't rush into major life changes and don't worry about letting anyone down. They will understand.
- Eating healthy foods and staying hydrated helps to relieve stress.
- It can be tempting to turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain but these will only prolong and accentuate it. Be moderate and only take medication prescribed by your doctor.
- Take baths or get a massage to deal with physical pain and stress.
- Choose your thoughts wisely. Remember the love you have for your child. Tell yourself that no matter how difficult it seems now, these feelings will lessen over time.
Moving on does not mean that you love your child less. Your child lives on in you. There are many ways to honor their memory.
- You may like to hold a memorial where friends and family can share happy memories.
- You can continue to talk to them and to celebrate their birthdays if that feels right to you.
- You can set up funds or a scholarship in their name.
You will never stop loving your child but it is healthy to move on and to live your life.