No parent expects to lose their children, no matter how young or old they are at the time of death. This makes losing a child one of the most complicated and challenging forms of loss someone has ever experienced. A range of emotions, from deep sadness to strong anger, guilt, anxiety and helplessness go through your brain and body because oftentimes grief is experienced on a physical level as well.
While these emotions are a natural experience after losing a child, it does not make the events less traumatic than they are. After all, they change the way the world is supposed to be. Children should be the ones with so much life left ahead of them, and these events can lead to questioning your beliefs.
Common responses to losing a child
The loss of a child triggers a variety of emotions, and some of them can be difficult to understand. Grief is not the same for two people, meaning we can’t even expect the father and the mother to cope with it the same way. However, the most common responses when faced with the loss of a child are:
- Shock: The initial shock may make you feel numb, which is your brain’s way of protecting you from pain.
- Denial: After the initial shock, you start feeling your child can’t be dead, and they will soon be walking through the door.
- Confusion: Your mind is doing its best to process this traumatic event, so you may experience a “haze” that makes you forget things or get easily confused.
- Guilt: This is perhaps one of the most common responses to the death of a child. You start wondering if there is something you could have done or say to make things different.
- Feeling powerless: besides guilts, parents often feel they were not able to protect their child, which leads to a sense of powerlessness.
- Anger: Anger comes because we often feel the need to blame someone or something for what happened, so we end up feeling angry at doctors for not doing more, at those who may have caused the event, or at how cruel life can be.
- Hopelessness: When you lose a child, you don’t solely grieve their loss, but the loss of all those hopes, dreams and expectations you had. Frequently, this loss of hope comes back at the time important events in the life of your child would have happened, such as a birthday or graduation.
Coping with the loss of a child
To be completely honest, parents never do get over the loss of a child. But what you can learn is how to survive it and accept the way this event changes you. A therapist can help you understand those feelings of guilt, anger and sadness, and accept the fact that you can’t change how things happened.
Through therapy, you will learn to take small steps towards a better future and accept the fact that you need happiness in your life. Learning to enjoy life again won’t make you love your child less; quite the contrary. It will become a powerful tool that you can use to start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel again.