Dealing with the death of a child
After we’d been to the funeral home to make the arrangements, we had to stop at the store to get diapers for our daughter who was almost 2 at the time. She was sleeping in her car seat, so I stayed in the car with her while my husband went into the store. I’ll never forget just sitting there numbly-thinking about what I’d just done. I had just made funeral arrangements for Isaac-the son we’d only had two days with. As I sat there thinking, I watched the people walk in and out of the store; going to and from their cars as if nothing had happened. And as I watched the thought kept running through my mind…they don’t even care that my baby is dead. —Lisa
The death of a child: A pain like no other
Losing a child is a pain far greater than any other pain we could possibly endure. It is a pain that cuts so deeply into your very being that you feel as if the breath and life within you is being sucked away with tremendous force. And there’s not a thing in the world you can do to stop it.
That’s the key when it comes to dealing with the death of your child–not trying to stop the pain, but rather working through it. By clawing your way through the massive wall of emotions rather than running from them, ignoring them or letting them swallow you whole, you can and will find your smile again. It just takes time.
How to spend that time
- Grieve–don’t be embarrassed, ashamed or feel any guilt about grieving the loss of your child. Whether it be a child you held for 1 hour or 14 years, allow yourself the time YOU need to grieve.
- Take care of yourself: Eat a healthy diet, walk, run, swim-whatever form of exercise makes you feel good. Get plenty of rest. Avoid alcohol, people who bring negativity to the scene and places that make you uncomfortable.
- Don’t be afraid or feel guilty about smiling…even laughing. It is more than okay to feel something besides pain and grief. Smiling and laughing…finding joy in other aspects of life does not mean you love or miss your child any less!
- Create a memorial to your child’s life. A scholarship fund, garden, playground…whatever you feel is appropriate.
- Get support from books on grief and working through this tremendous loss, talk with other parents who’ve been in your position and consider a support group.
- Don’t try to out grieve your spouse or other children in the family. Everyone grieves in their own way in their own time. You’ve all suffered a loss and should show each other the compassion and respect each one needs to get through it in their own time and their own way.
When more is needed after the death of a child
There are times when time, love and support from family and friends is not enough. For whatever reason(s), you may find yourself in need of professional counseling and/or medication to alleviate your depression. Do NOT consider this as a sign of weakness or failure. It is NOT! Neither does your need for help make you more grievous of your lost child than your spouse. This is simply your way of coping with the loss.
There are other aspects of life that may need to be addressed, as well. These include parting with your child’s clothing and other belongings, possibly moving to a new home, marital problems as a result of the inability to grieve as individuals together, driving down ‘that’ street, seeing the person who was with your child last, going to places and events that your child loved, attending baby showers, seeing your child’s friends, going back to work…
Each of these situations needs to be handled with a clear head and a heart that has allowed itself time to work through the raw emotions that come within the first few months of such a loss. Don’t make rash decisions or act too quickly; making choices you might later regret.
Let others love you after the death of a child
While friends and family members may not know what you are feeling, what to say or how to act, remember these two things:
- They love you and want to be there for you
- This is something you were unprepared for as well. Your thoughts, feelings and actions are equally unknown to you. So let the ones that love you love you through this. Take your time, don’t be afraid to tell others what you do and don’t need, but let them love you.