In the midst of deep grief over the death of a child, you may hear many different reactions from bereaved parents — from not wanting to talk about the child to why this has happened to them. I have chosen 10 common reactions and commented on each one.
1. “I don’t want to talk about my child. It makes me too sad.” Talking about your child is good for you. It allows you to tell others how you are feeling and they in turn may react differently to you. You don’t have to get graphic or tell too much about how he/she died. Remember the good times and share those. It will lighten your heart to let your feelings out.
2. “I cry and can’t stop at times.” It is okay to cry. Crying is a natural emotion and by releasing pent up emotions that you feel about your child’s death, it will keep you healthy and on the right track in your grief journey.
3. “I am a strong person, and will survive without any help.” You may survive, but end up with no one caring about you, your child, or your feelings. Don’t think you are so independent that you don’t need a friend. Everyone needs a friend to talk to and count on, even strong people.
4. “I don’t want others to see me upset, so I don’t mention my child’s death.” Everyone knows what happened; they know you are grieving. don’t pretend nothing has happened. If you want to talk about your child, do so. Others realize you may cry or get teary-eyed, but they knew your child and realize what you are going through. Give them credit for understanding.
5. “It’s no one’s business, and I wish people would leave me alone.” You don’t really want to be alone. What you want is for this to have never happened, as do millions of other bereaved parents. But it is impossible to change what has happened, so let’s deal with the present. Others just want to help. Let them.
6. “I wish others would talk about my child.” You must let others know that you want them to talk about your child. They don’t want to hurt you by bringing up the child’s name, so it is up to you to tell them that you’d love to hear their name mentioned in conversation and that way, you too, can participate. Your child lived and had experiences that are worth remembering and talking about. Only by communicating that to others will they feel comfortable talking about the child.
7. “Why did this happen to me and my child.” You were not chosen, nor was your child. To try to explain “why me” is not realistic. There are no answers, and you shouldn’t waste your time thinking about it. It will not change what has happened. What you should do is say to yourself, “Okay, what am I going to do about this, and how can I move forward?” Set new goals and priorities for yourself.
8. “I try to smile and laugh, but feel as though I should not want any happiness after what has happened.” Don’t feel guilty for having a good moment or a good day. Smiling and laughing is a healthy feeling and when you start, your whole body will respond positively.
9. “I don’t want to see friends. I have to mourn my child.” Friends are the best source of having someone to talk to about your child. Let them help you; let them take you out; let them shop for you or clean your house. After a while you will feel better, but at first, friends are necessary for comfort and to help you as you start your grief journey.
10. “I must be strong for my spouse and other children.” You know others are depending on you, but remember, pretending not to hurt can be counter-productive to your life now. Try to explain how you feel to your family, what you can and can’t do right now. Tell them that there will be good and bad moments, and that you need their support.
Sandy is the author of the award-winning “Creating a New Normal…After the Death of a Child” and “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye.” Both books have coping techniques for any bereaved parent.