I am trying to research on this because of what happened these past weeks-and for easy reference I am collating it on one webpage-so here it is:
Grieving the Loss of a Child By Mary Beth Adomaitis
Grieving the loss of a child takes on many forms. For many, grieving is an actual physical, mental and emotional process that can take years to process. For others, grief is more of an internal struggle that is rarely ever seen. Losing a child is one of the worst experiences parents can ever face. So learning to understand their grief is just one step in helping them see brighter days.
How Women Grieve
When a woman loses her child — whether it be a baby who died in the womb or one who was 40 years old — a part of her dies as well.
Grieving the Loss of a Baby
From the moment she receives a positive pregnancy test, this woman starts bonding with her unborn baby. She is the one who senses the flutters, kicks and jabs, as she is also the one who feels the morning sickness, sciatic nerve discomfort and for some, labor pains. In all essence, the woman is the one who knows the baby best.
So when that baby dies during the pregnancy or soon thereafter, the mother will not only emotionally feel the loss, but physically as well. Women whose babies die before or shortly after birth will still have their breasts produce milk, they may have horrible stretch marks and the may actually even feel “phantom kicks” or hear “phantom cries.” Women still have to physically deliver a baby even if they know that he or she has died or will so shortly. So, it’s not uncommon for her to physically grieve for her child. In every possible way, her body is telling her she is mother, but in reality, there is no baby in her arms. Some ways women physically grieve their loss is by:
- Clutching their arms to their breasts as they feel their milk supply come in
- Subconsciously rubbing their bellies as if their babies are still growing and kicking inside
- Holding a stuffed animal, doll or even a baby blanket close to them, sometimes rocking back and forth
- Waking up several times at night hearing a baby’s cry
- Being too tired to get out of bed in the morning or to keep up with any daily routines
- Losing or gaining large amounts of weight
- Uncontrollable crying at any given time
- Other physical changes to the body including hair loss, brittle nails and a change in complexion, vision, agility and appetite
Grieving the Loss of an Older Child
Having an older child pass away is not much different than losing a baby. However, instead of losing a future with the child, parents have also lost the past. Their house is full of many memories; their pictures adorn the walls. While physically, women who have lost older children will not feel many of the “new mom” symptoms as those who have lost a baby, they may start to feel the need to have another child — not as a replacement, but to continue being a mother. Besides many of the way already mentioned, a mother grieves the loss of an older child by:
- Keeping in contact with their child’s friends and classmates
- Taking on more of a parental role with the grandchildren who lost a parent
- Establishing a scholarship in the child’s name at the school he or she attended
- If the child still lived at home, not changing his or her bedroom
- Feeling lost or unloved
- Unable to continue working outside of the home (if applicable)
- Unable to complete simple tasks such as housecleaning
- Inability to remember things such as phone numbers and names
- Why Men Grieve Differently
It is true; men do grieve differently than women. After all, most men are brought up to be stereotypical strong protectors who should not freely show their emotions. This is one of the reasons there seems to be a struggle between mothers and fathers after a child dies. Wives are looking to their husbands for support and understanding, but many times, their male counterparts can’t — or won’t — show the same sympathy. So, how do men deal with their grief after losing a child? In most instances, men act instead of dwell on the situation. They put their feelings into actions and experience grief physically, not emotionally. Instead of talking about their feelings, they focus more on completing specific tasks their wives or mothers of their children may not be able to do such as:
- Making funeral arrangements
- Planting a memorial garden
- Contacting friends, family members, schools, etc.
- Writing a eulogy
- Cleaning the house or cooking meals
- Grocery shopping
And don’t think that men will hold all their grief inside. They may spend more of their time “bonding” with their male friends doing activities such as fishing, sporting events or playing cards. Men will also usually cry over the loss of their child — but not in front of their wives or other family members or friends. Most guys, who feel the need to be strong, will shed their tears privately.
Facing the Holidays Without Your Child
Written by Clara Hinton- Author of Silent Grief
Nov 21, 2011
Death is such a mystery, and when it happens to someone near and dear to us, death becomes all-too-real. This is especially true when we experience the totally unacceptable, unexplainable death of a child. We wander around in a thick fog for a long time unable to focus on anything. Joy has been shocked out of us, and we feel numb to the world. Most of life loses all meaning in the first months following the death of a child. There is no joy. Unbearable pain has taken residence in our hearts and nothing seems to be able to lift the heaviness of it all.
This type of heart pain and brokenness is especially traumatizing during the holidays. We panic not knowing how we are going to get through the next hour, much less the entire holiday season. It all feels like too much. And, in all practicality, it is too much for us to face, so we must set personal guidelines for trying to get through the holiday season following the death of our child.
It is wise never to try to follow the same holiday rituals and traditions expecting a happy outcome. Life has been turned upside down and inside out and is spinning out of control on most days. In the blink of an eye your child’s life on this earth was gone. You must now take the time to simply breathe deeply, try to relieve your body of all forms of emotional and physical stress, and take each day as it comes. Trying to do too much too soon is a sure-fire way to increase your level of anxiety and pain.
Make no apologies and feel no guilt for your roller coaster of emotions following the death of your child. Your life has gone through major changes and your heart has endured some of the deepest pain known to all of mankind. By letting others know that your holidays will be different this year because your life is now totally different, you have set the stage for some support. There’s no sense at all in playing the pretend game. Your pain will eventually make its appearance to everyone around you. It’s better to line up support from the early moments of your loss to make certain that you are surrounded by caring people who are trying to understand.
Find some way to include your child in the holidays. It will help your grieving to know that you have kept your child’s memory alive. Some parents have found it helps to place a special ornament on the Christmas tree each year engraved with their child’s name. Others choose to buy a gift and donate it to a child in need of some special holiday joy. Many parents light a candle and keep it burning through the holiday season as a way of honoring their child. Do something that will make you feel connected to your child. There is no right or wrong thing to do. Whatever works for you is the best choice.
Most of all, remind yourself daily that you will get through this holiday season without your child, and your pain will not always be this raw. The holiday season is a time of love, and there will be a day when special moments will warm your heart and your grief will soften. By doing something to include your child in the family holiday, you are allowing yourself to cry tears of joy as well as sorrow.
Grief is a journey that takes time and lots of trial and errors alone the way as you find what gives you the most comfort during your deepest hours of pain. Be extra kind to yourself, and in time you will be able to face the holiday season with moments of peace as you find new ways of holding your child close even in death.
Grieving Parents Face Higher Risk of Early Death, Study Says
Sept. 8, 2011
When her 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, died in a car accident in 1993, Susan Gilbert said her grief was exhausting. “I didn’t sleep for a year. I slept for maybe half an hour a night,” she said. “The experience is really beyond words.”
Today, Gilbert works with other parents whose children have dies, and said the loss affects all aspects of their lives. “The loss of a child is something that you have to live with the rest of your life. While you do learn to live with it, you don’t get over it,” she said.
New research suggests that such parents can suffer devastating, long-lasting health consequences as a result ofo the death.
Researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom found that parents whose children died before their first birthday faced an increased risk of early death themselves. Their study followed more than 1,000 bereaved parents from the U.K. and found that parents in Scotland were more than twice as likely to die in the first 15 years following their child’s death as parents who had not lost a child.
Among bereaved mothers in England and Wales, the risk of early death was four times higher than nonbereaved parents. The researchers included parents who had stillborn babies as well as those who had children die within their first 12 months of life.
The study was particularly important to Dr. Mairi Harper, the report’s lead author, because she herself had a child who’d died several years before. She said she was surprised by what she and her colleagues found.
“There is evidence that bereavement is a risk factor for illness,” she said. “We did expect that bereaved parents would show a higher illness factor, but we did not expect their risk to be as great as it was.”
The study, published today in the British Journal of Medicine’s Supportive and Palliative Care, suggests several reasons for the increased rates of death among bereaved parents, such as weakened immune systems or perhaps some long-lasting biological effects caused by the stress of their loss. However, the authors noted that they could not rule out suicide as a frequent cause of death among bereaved parents.
The study is not the first to suggest that grief over the loss of a loved one could lead to early death. Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said that previous studies had found that people who experienced the death of a spouse could die soon after their loss. But Bea said he believed that in the case of bereaved parents, lifestyle factors could play a role too in increasing the risk of early death.
“These are grief-stricken individuals who could acquire some really negative lifestyle factors, things that would predispose them to an early death,” Bea said, saying that some bereaved parents might turn to alcohol, drugs or an unhealthy diet to deal with the pain of their loss.
Harper said some of her previous research on bereaved parents did show increased rates of death because of drug and alcohol problems. But she doesn’t rule out the impact the stress of grieving can have on parents.
“My own personal opinion is that parents don’t get anywhere near the level of support and understanding they need to cope,” she said.
Harper said parents may believe that they must try to move on and get past the death of their child. But she said many of the bereaved parents in her study reported finding comfort in remembering the child who was gone.
“Being able to continue the relationship with their child, even if it was a symbolic one, was something the parents said was very helpful,” Harper said. She also urged parents to join support groups and connect with other mothers and fathers who have lost children.
Susan Gilbert said having the support of other bereaved parents helped her cope with the loss of her daughter. She wrote a book about her experience, hoping it would serve as a “portable supprot group” to other grieving parents. But she said she also found comfort in keeping Amanda’s memory alive.
“I still talk to my daughter. I still think about her every day,” Gilbert said. “I think you do find a way to maintain a relationship with your child. As time goes by, you almost incorporate them into your being.”
It Makes No Sense
Written by Clara Hinton | Apr 22, 2002
Many things, including accidents and illness, can claim the life of a child. A fatal accident will knock the air right out of you. Illness is no different. Even though we may have known that the outcome of the child did not look good, we still begin the grief journey by being in shock. It makes no sense at all for a young child’s life to end. Child loss is an unexplainable loss.
Following the shock of losing a child comes a season of questioning. Why? Why did the accident have to happen? Why didn’t I keep my eyes on the pool for a few more minutes? Why did my child have to be the one to get cancer? Why didn’t the doctors do something sooner? Why? Why? Why? Parents are plagued by the question, “Why?”
The reason we labor so much over the question of “Why?” is because the death of a child is so totally unreasonable. It makes no sense for a young child to have been snatched away too soon. We have grown used to the fact that the aged will die, but it is never acceptable for us to hear that a child has died. The death is out of order. Parents are supposed to die before their children.
Because the death of a child makes no sense, acceptance of the death becomes a very difficult thing to do. It is extremely difficult to process the fact that the child is gone, and therefore the grief can become an overwhelming pain. When we have not accepted the fact of the young child’s death, there can be an expected, unnatural longing for the child to return. This, of course, is not possible, and can often turn the grief into an unmanageable type of pain where professional intervention becomes necessary. Acceptance of the death is a very essential part of grief work.
How can a parent accept the fact that the child has died when nothing seems to make any sense? It takes time to get beyond the initial shock of the death. How much time needed is a very individual matter. Some parents will understand the reality of loss in a week or two. Others will need three months or more to begin to understand that a child did indeed die.
Even though a parent might return to the motions of living, acceptance of the child’s death will only come after many tears and many painful experiences. Child loss is difficult to process!
Reality settles in when a parent begins to understand that a lunch does not have to be packed, the child does not have to receive weekly chemo treatments, or that there is no longer a need to participate in a carpool for soccer. The daily routine of living has been changed dramatically.
The mundane activities of life change instantly when a child has died. The world as we once knew it is totally different. There is now an emptiness that can never be completely filled.
Acceptance of a child’s death is the most difficult part of grief. Once a parent understands the reality of loss, as painful as that is to be, a parent can then begin to move forward in the long, step-by-step journey of grief.
The death of a child might never make any sense, but the ability to move beyond the death into a more hopeful living where joy returns is possible once the child’s death has become a reality.
The Burden of Guilt
Written by Clara Hinton | Aug 15, 2002
Guilt and grief seem to team up together for a long time following the death of a child. In fact, guilt is one very real reason many parents often fall into a depression following child loss. This is especially true when the death of a young child is involved.
A parent is often plagued with such questions as “Why didn’t I see the symptoms of my child’s illness sooner?” “Why did I leave my child unattended by the pool?” “Why did I trust the babysitter when I knew she was inexperienced?” “Why didn’t I follow my gut instincts and take my child to the doctor one day sooner?” Guilt is a heavy burden to carry around, and unattended guilt can cause havoc in the life of a burdened parent.
How does a parent get rid of the guilt associated with child loss? There are things a parent can to do help, but let me preface this by saying that if depression has become part of your life, it is necessary to seek professional help. Depression is real, and there are several medications available to specifically treat depression. Often, it will be suggested to receive counseling for depression along with taking the medication. There are many trained doctors who can help you.
If you feel an overwhelming sadness that incapacitates you, seek help. Or, if you have such overpowering feelings of guilt that you feel like harming yourself or harming someone else, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Remember, there is help available for depression, and depression is not something that you can just get over in a day or two.
Guilt will greatly interfere with your ability to move forward in grief work. It is extremely important to recognize the fact that you are struggling with guilt and then to do something positive to remove the guilt from your life. The first, and most difficult step to take is to forgive yourself. This is no small task, and often will take weeks of concentrated work to do this.
Write a letter that journals your thoughts, including all of the guilt that is weighing you down. In this letter, ask your child to forgive you. It is often helpful to go to the gravesite of your child and read the letter aloud. There seems to be great healing in asking your child for forgiveness. Many parents have held a “forgiveness ritual” where the letter is read aloud, then the letter is taken away and burned, thereby signifying the idea of putting the guilt behind you.
Parents also find great comfort in prayer. Ask God to forgive you, and then remind yourself often that you have truly been forgiven. This way of forgiveness thinking begins a cycle of healthy healing in the difficult journey of child loss.
Remind yourself daily that you cannot change what is done, but you can move forward and live today. This often takes the longest time to do. Parents so often are plagued with the “what if” questions. There is never any resolution to the guilt associated with “what if”. It is necessary to forgive the past, and gradually take steps to move forward into the present. This is no small task for a grieving parent.
Removing guilt from child loss can be the hardest work you will ever do. It takes time to shed guilt, so be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness of self is the most necessary part of all. Seek professional help for depression. Be assured that when guilt is removed from your life, you have accomplished a great step forward in this difficult journey we call grief from child loss.
Child Loss often Makes a Father Feel Like a Failure
Written by Clara Hinton | Jun 06, 2010
Men go through all kinds of identity changes when they experience the loss of a child, especially a child who is older and has lived long enough to create established memories with his father. A man identifies himself by mainly two things: the job he has and the family he has. When a child is taken away by death, a man suddenly loses the largest, most important part of his identity and a real crises situation has been created, not just for the father, but also for role the father plays with the family. Fathers love to feel needed, and they love to feel like they are the one responsible for the happiness of the entire family.
Men are far less verbal than women by nature, and it makes it much more difficult for family members and friends to understand the changes that are taking place with a father when his loses a child. He often feels like a total failure because he was unable to prevent the death or to fix the death once it took place. This is especially true if the child’s life was lost due to an illness. Fathers are notorious for fixing things that are broken or in need of repair, and when they cannot fix their child’s illness and the end result is death, a father goes through a deep grieving period of feeling tremendous guilt and failure.
A father who loses a child also loses such a large part of his dreams. Fathers don’t always openly talk about their dreams of hunting and fishing with their children, or of taking bike rides together, going to ball games together or of tossing a ball in the backyard, but they think about these events all of the time. Fathers of girls daydream about walking their daughter down the aisle and dancing that first dance at the wedding. They dream about taking care of all of their child’s hurts, wiping their tears away, and being called “hero” for all of the ways they show their strength to their son or daughter. Child loss, in a father’s eyes, often represents weakness. Men believe fathers are to be strong and in charge, not at a loss for knowing what to do when death turns life upside down. Child loss is such a helpless feeling, and often this is a foreign emotion for fathers who have been immersed in the lives of being a tower of strength for their child.
What is a father to do? How can a father go on and feel whole once again? It takes time to work through the pain of loss. It takes a long time to build back a feeling of belonging as a father. It will often take years for a father to be able to reclaim his identity of a father. It will take lots of working through feelings of failure and loss to feel like a man who can always proudly wear the name father.
Take it a day at a time, a step at a time. Begin by telling yourself over and over that you will always be a father. Nothing can change that – not even death. Remind yourself often that some things cannot be fixed by you. Remember often that lost dreams are part of the pain every parent feels when a child dies. It takes a lot of tears and years to work past the milestone markers of such things as dreams of your child playing ball, driving a car, dating, getting married, and having children. These are not easy dreams to release, but with time you will be able to more vividly remember the times you had with your child than to sorrow over the time you never had. Be patient with yourself! Be kind to yourself! And, when you fall into the emotional pain of feeling like a failure, remind yourself that you will always be a father and nothing can take away that badge of honor, not even death!
Lastly, remind yourself that you will make it! There will be a day when you can say with confidence, “I am a father – always and forever, and I am so thankful for that!”
The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
- At least she lived a long life, many people die young
- He is in a better place
- She brought this on herself
- There is a reason for everything
- Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now
- You can have another child still
- She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him
- I know how you feel
- She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go
- Be strong
The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief
- I am so sorry for your loss.
- I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
- I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.
- You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
- My favorite memory of your loved one is…
- I am always just a phone call away
- Give a hug instead of saying something
- We all need help at times like this, I am here for you
- I am usually up early or late, if you need anything
- Saying nothing, just be with the person
Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact the opposite. We were trying to comfort. A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Where as an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.
Here are some of the traits that make the best, “The Best” and the worst, “The Worst”
Traits of the worst ones
- They want to fix the loss
- They are about our discomfort
- They are directive in nature
- They rationalize or try to explain loss
- They may be judgmental
- Not about griever
- May minimize the loss
- Put a timeline on loss
Traits of the Best ones
- Supportive, but not trying to fix it
- About feelings
- Non active, not telling anyone what to do
- Admitting can’t make it better
- Not asking for something or someone to change feelings
- Recognize loss
- Not time limited
- 10 main needs of bereaved child
- To acknowledge that death is omnipresent
- Need for structure
- Need to tell story
- Make sense of confusions with adult
- To have their pain held
- Help to find tools for managing
- To fill some of the empty spaces
- To possess facts
- To feel cared for and understood
- To find a new kind of normal