The death of a child remains one of the most stressful life events imaginable. Mourning the loss of a child is a painful process that can affect a person’s emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well-being. However, the grieving process is an essential step to healing and recovery.
Feelings associated with grief should not be ignored or suppressed because it may cause other problems to surface in the future. It is normal for a bereaved person to experience the below feelings and reactions.
If these changes become overwhelming at any point, there are people and support resources that can help you cope with your loss and encourage you to move forward.
The Grieving Process
Grieving involves moving through various stages of grief: numbness, searching and yearning, disorganization and despair, and reorganization and recovery. The grieving process is deeply personal, and each person will grieve in their own way at their own pace.
It is completely normal and expected to feel sad after your child dies, but over time the sadness tends to decrease in intensity as you move towards acceptance. Families who have been through the process have passed on these suggestions:
While there is no “right” way to grieve, there are positive and negative ways to cope. Negative coping behaviors include drug and alcohol abuse, addictive behaviors (gambling), sexual promiscuity, self-mutilation (cutting), or suicide ideation. It is critical to get professional help if you or any family members are engaged in negative behaviors or exhibit any of the below symptoms of clinical depression.
When left untreated, clinical depression can progress to feelings of suicide. If safety is a concern, please contact a suicide hotline or call 911 for professional help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline operates 24 hours, 7 days a week and can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Impact on Family
The death of a child creates a crisis in a marriage, and most couples must make an effort to keep their marriage intact. Tensions can arise from different grieving styles and misaligned expectations among family members. Conflicts can be avoided if the lines of communication are kept open between partners and among their surviving children. For additional information on this topic, visit our page on Communicating with your Partner and Children and Grief.