In ancient Hebrew Scriptures, Yahweh gave 10 Commandments to Moses, following the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. First recorded in the book of Exodus, these Commandments are moral statutes designed for the Israelites to enjoy fruitful and holy living. Unlike the Biblical Ten Commandments, the 15 Bereavement Commandments listed here, are not universal and timeless standards of right and wrong. Rather, they are principles that many grieving individuals, especially bereaved parents, have found beneficial for surviving the emotional roller coaster of the grief journey.
The purpose of these 15 Bereavement Commandments is to offer you a pathway to inner peace following the most devastating experience of a lifetime–the death of your precious child.
1. Thou shall expect to experience an array of confusing, conflicting and at times overwhelming feelings, sometimes accompanied by rampant tears. This is not unusual and is a part of the normal grieving process.
2. Thou shall learn as much as possible about the grieving process. It is important that you understand what to expect, what is normal, and if or when it may be necessary to seek professional bereavement support. Knowledge is power. Knowing the facts about grief and grieving serves as a “reality check” and lessens the feeling of powerlessness.
3. Thou shall take life one day at a time. Some days this may mean getting through one difficult moment or one hour at a time. Getting through each day can be a great accomplishment.
4. Thou shall give thyself permission to grieve. This means learning to accept the loss, facing it and walking right through the middle of it. Some wise person once said, “The only way out is through.” Even though grief is painful, walking through the pain is the only known way to release it and begin to heal.
5. Thou shall ignore clichés, such as “God knows best…;” or “they are in a better place…;” or “s/he is no longer in pain” statements. Comments that begin with “at least”, coming from those who have not experienced the death of a child are intended to be comforting, but usually miss the mark. Accept the good intentions and ignore the rest.
6. Thou shall not hold thyself responsible for contributing to your child’s death, in any way. No matter what happened, remember you would have done anything in your power to save your child.
7. Thou shall grieve in your own way– for as long as it takes. There is no schedule, no time limit, and no template on how to grieve. Everyone’s grief journey is unique.
8. Thou shall take the opportunity to talk about your child. Telling your child’s story can be very comforting to you and gives permission to others, to speak of your child. Repeating your story helps you to face the reality of the loss.
9. Thou shall surround thyself with supportive people. This is one of the most difficult times in your life. A support group (such as The Compassionate Friends), a trusted friend, or an understanding family member, can be a sounding board and can help to lighten the load of grief.
10. Thou shall use some means for “externalizing” the grief (getting the grief outside of yourself). Once externalized, grief is more manageable. This can be accomplished by such activities as journaling or other forms of writing, quilting, meditating, composing music or poetry, weeping with the conscious intent to release, or rigorous physical activity, just to name a few.
11. Thou shall plan for special days, such as birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. These days can be difficult, especially in the early years of grief. Having a plan can help to reduce the dread, mitigate the pain, and help to transform the pain into a meaningful memorial.
12. Thou shall remember your child’s life, as well as the death. To honor your child’s memory, plant a tree, carry a linking object (anything that serves as a positive reminder), or create a memorial/remembrance of your choice.
13. Thou shall love thy self as much as you love your child. This means taking care of you without feeling guilty for laughing or enjoying yourself. You are not deserting or betraying your child by living on and savoring pleasant moments whenever possible.
14. Thou shall connect with your Higher Power, Supreme Being, God, Allah, Great Mother, or whomever you look to for strength. Meditation, prayer, spiritual literature, and other practices help to make that connection.
15. Thou shall reach out and touch someone. The act of doing something to comfort or support someone else helps keep your own grief in perspective. It is also a way to honor your child’s memory.
I encourage you to add your own personal commandments to this list. I hope that these 15 Commandments for surviving your child’s death will help guide you along your grief journey toward finding hope, healing and peace. Shalom.
Coralease C. Ruff 2012
Thank you for sharing these commandments. They are very helpful and in some ways, can be applied to coping with grief over the death of loved ones other than your child. Understandably the death of your child is extremely difficult, more so than the death of any other loved one. Forgive the horrible cliche, the death of a child before a parent is not how it should be. Coping with the grief is extremely painful and difficult. It is often difficult to struggle through the grief. The commandments you listed help guide and remind what to do when all hope is gone. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing these ideas, Coralease. As someone who struggled to recover from multiple losses, my personal commandment was to recover at my own pace, which meant making progress on some days, and slipping backwards on others. Despite these fluctuations, I realized I was making progress and am a happy person today.
Thank you for your kind comments regarding the commandments for surviving the death of a child. I agree with you that the commandments written here can apply to the death of any loved one. Even though I targeted it to bereaved parents, my hope is that others will find them helpful also. Thanks for sharing. CCR
Thanks for your comment. Your personal commandment is similar to my #7 commandment about grieving at your own pace and in your own time. As Darcy Sims says “one size does not fit all”, as we know all too well. CCR
Thank you for giving me insight into my own thoughts and behaviors. It has been six excruciating months since my son, Kevin, died. Every waking moment is filled with memories. I cherish them, even in my darkest moments. Thank you again!
Diane, I am so sorry for Your son, Kevin’s death. I am glad to hear you say that you cherish all of your memories of him, because eventually those memories will bring you joy. In some instances they will bring a smile to your face. Your grief is still so fresh and painful now. I can say it will get better with a lot of hard work. It wont always hurt this badly. I hope that you have a supportive person (persons) who can walk with you during this difficult time. Thank you for sharing and Be blessed.
I lost my 27 year old son four months ago in a car accident. Not knowing what to do or not to do to help my daughter in-law through this is hard. She is very open and we talk about him and the accident often, she was in the car too. She saw him die. They were only married 18 months. How do we honor and/or celebrate their wedding anniversary? We were thrust through the holidays as it happened one week before Thanksgiving, but I think this will be the hardest day of all to overcome.
I don’t think I’ll ever get on the other side of this grief my son was all I had he was my only family just me & him
I lost my only son to an accidental death in 2010. My daughter took her own life in 2017 while I was with my husband going thru a double lung transplant. I feel so much guilt that I was not there for her. She was in a very unhappy marriage and had never came to terms with her brothers death. I am not sure how I am going to be able to get thru this. It is a struggle every day.