To lose a child is devastating for most parents. The process of coping with the death of your child (bereavement) can have many different faces. But no matter whether the lost loved one is a baby, a small child, a child living at home or an adult, the loss of a child is hard to accept. One of the basic assumptions in life is that the old die before the young and that a parent should not outlive their child.
Everyday routines are changed
As a bereaved parent, a new identity must be found. The life of the parents are redefined completely with changes in everyday-routines, long term planning, as well as dreams. Thus the bereavement of parents is often complex both emotionally and practically, because almost all aspects of the parents life and plans included the living child. Bereavement is both grieving over the lost life and adjusting to the future without the child.
Many parents experience feelings of insecurity and loneliness about their feelings. It can be difficult for friends and family who have not lost their own child to embrace the complexity of the parents’ feelings. Peer support, in the form of support-groups for example, can in many cases provide a means of recognising parents’ feelings, and they are often a place where the story of the child can be developed and shared over time. Since, thankfully, the death of a child is not a common experience, to meet other parents who have lived through something similar is valuable for many parents.
Coping strategies are very individual
Bereavement is dependent on the network of a parent, on the resources s/he owns, on the circumstances of the death and many other things. It can be displayed very individually from parent to parent and even between couples. Different coping strategies can be used, the time where bereavement is taking most of the parents’ energy cannot be predicted, and the feelings related to the loss can also vary widely. Differences between two parents are in many cases an additional challenge to overcome.
Bereavement following the loss of a child is a life-long process, but over time the loss should affect the everyday lives of the parents less and less. Remembering the child will however never disappear completely. Creating places for memories is a way to cope with the loss over time.