Losing a Child

BY: Diane Snyder Cowan, MA, MT-BC, CHPCA

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

It is easy to get drawn into public tragedies when they are broadcast in court rooms and news segments on television and radio. We see folks grieving and hear news stories that can trigger our own grief reactions. Recently, there have been many accounts of a Florida trial concerning the death of a child.

Parents and children share a unique bond. When a child dies a piece of the parent dies too. No matter how many years the child has lived, the grief is palpable. The death of an adult child is also the death of a friend and a source of support. If it is an only child, it is the loss of the role of a parent and the possibility of grandchildren. It is the loss of hopes and dreams parents had for their children. Part of the future dies along with the child. Grief responses for parents are intense and last a long time. Shock, overwhelming sadness, guilt, and anger are only a few of the more common grief reactions.

Parents often question their faith and the meaning and purpose of life. People who mean well frequently suggest that we put timetables on our grief, but there is no calendar for marking off the days of our mourning. The intensity will ebb and flow over time. The deep sadness will always be there. Bereaved parents suggest that you give yourself permission to grieve. Cry when you need to cry. Tell and re-tell your child's story, using your child's name. Plan ahead for special days and anniversaries. Plan responses for the questions about your family. Reach out to others. Be kind to yourself.

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