Your child's death will affect you, your other children and your family members in different ways. Bereaved parents often talk of 'surviving' rather than 'coping' with the death of their child. Some parents describe grieving as 'being lost in a maze of conflicting emotions' or a sense of losing control. Many speak of it as an emotional roller-coaster.
After what may seem like a very short time, those who supported you during your child’s illness or at the time of your child's death may start to return to their normal lives, leaving you feeling vulnerable and alone.
Grief comes with a mix of feelings, sensations, thoughts and behaviours. As you read through the list keep in mind:
- You may experience all of these symptoms or only a few.
- They can occur in any order on any day.
- How long each symptom lasts can vary.
- If these symptoms are too intense, extreme or last for a long time, seek professional help.
- There is no time limit to how long your grief will last – most bereaved parents say that it doesn’t ever fully go away, but you learn to deal with it better.
Remember grief is a natural response to loss but the impact of the loss of a child can mean the experience will be very intense and overwhelming. Be gentle with yourself and let someone else know when you are feeling like you are unable to cope. It is normal to need extra support at times. These times are not always at the beginning of your loss and can be months or years later and often at specific times like Christmas, Father's or Mother's Day. You may need to prepare for unexpected grief around these times, especially in the days leading up to special dates.
Feelings of loss can also result from separating from:
- your hospital or palliative care team
- your health care team that helped care for your child at home, sharing intimate, vulnerable and challenging times together
- other parents you shared part of your journey with, and who provided you with support and understanding
- the routine and life that you had caring for your child
- your child's school
Other potential losses:
- As people around you return to their own lives, they may stop dropping around or calling. You may have feelings of being abandoned when you most need support.
- Practical support such as help with meals, groceries or cleaning stops.
- Breakdowns in relationships and friendships may occur as you begin to redefine your life and feel those around you are unable to meet your needs.