A Parent’s Guide to Coping with the Loss of a Child
No matter the age, gender or culture, most parents would agree that the second they lay eyes on their newborn, their life changed forever. That very instant, they came to the realization that there is no greater joy and no greater love than the one that comes with parenthood. It is a feeling that cannot be worded and an emotion that cannot be replicated. It is a bond that surpasses all boundaries and connects a parent to their child in an unconditional and unexplainable way.
As a parent, it is your natural instinct to guard your baby against all the harm and evil that the world has to offer. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, it is impossible to protect them from all forms of danger. At the end of the day, life is unpredictable, and there is only so much we can control.
The grief of losing a child is something that no parent should ever experience. It can seem like an unbearable weight and leave you feeling broken, numb and empty. And while there are no set rules, no timeline or schedule for coping with the loss, there are ways to cope and work through the process while honoring your child’s memory. The key lies in understanding the fact that despite how hard it may be, life will only move forward and the best thing you can do for your child is to ensure you, yourself, live life to the fullest.
In her book, ‘The Scent of Roses,’ author Susan Oskey explains that dealing with grief is always easier said than done. Even after years of research on this emotion, psychologists remain baffled by the way grief can manifest and affect the human psyche. With that being said, there are still some strategies you can use to make this time easier for yourself.
Acknowledge the Emotional Turmoil
Your journey toward healing will only begin when you accept and recognize the pain that comes along with your loss. This means accepting the fact that your heart aches and that your soul yearns for the presence of your loved one. As hard as this may be, it is important to feel your emotions, be honest and express yourself in whatever way feels right. Confront your loss head-on and don’t shy away or try to ignore the sadness and heartache. Instead, embrace it, as this will help you come to terms with the situation faster.
Take Time to Process the Grief
It is well understood that grief is an emotion that can wreak havoc on both the physical and mental well-being of a person. So after you have acknowledged your grief, take some time alone to process everything that has happened. Do not rush to get back to normal life or force yourself to do activities that used to bring you joy. Rather, take the time you need to process everything and find your own way to healing.
This can be done through journaling, talking to a friend or simply sitting quietly in nature and allowing yourself to feel what needs to be felt. Although it may seem like a difficult task at first, eventually, this will help you move forward.
Lean On Your Support System
When losing your child, it may feel difficult to ask for help, but chances are, your family and friends want to support you in any way they can. They may not know the exact words to say or be able to provide a solution for the pain, but their presence alone is enough. When going through such a difficult time, it is important to have people around who understand what you’re going through and, more importantly, how you feel.
Grief can become overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help when needed. Isolation may temporarily feel good, but it only damages your mental health in the long run.
Make Self-Care a Priority
Grieving can take a massive toll on both the physical and mental well-being of an individual. It is a feeling known to eat you from the inside, leaving you empty of all emotion. You may not feel like putting in the effort, but it is during this time that self-care becomes all the more crucial.
Allow yourself to take a break from all the stress and anxiety by engaging in activities that help you relax and clear your mind. This can include anything from going for walks outdoors, enjoying a cup of tea or talking to someone close to you. Look after your physical health by ensuring you’re having all your meals, staying hydrated and being active. Don’t let grief overpower you.
Seek Professional Help If Needed
At the time, grief can admittedly become so overwhelming that it becomes impossible to cope with on your own. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help if you feel like you need or want it. A therapist can provide an objective perspective that will enable you to talk about the pain and go through it in a way that allows for healing. They can suggest medication, as well as other strategies that can help you cope with your loss in a healthier way.
Having someone well-educated and informed beside you on your recovery journey can truly ease your emotional burden and help you regain direction.
Remember Your Child in Your Own Way
Grief, although a universal experience, is highly personal – meaning that this emotion is unique to each individual and their circumstances. Each and every person copes in a different way and finds comfort in different things, so allow yourself to do exactly what you need.
You can honor and celebrate the memory of your child by doing something special – like planting a tree or making a memorial box filled with items that remind you of them. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose but just an act that commemorates the life of your loved one and gives you a chance to remember them in your own way.
In Susan Oskey‘s book, ‘The Scent of Roses,’ she emphasizes that losing a child is never easy, but with time, acceptance and understanding of the grief, it can be made bearable. It may take some time to get through this difficult period, but eventually, you will be able to find peace and comfort in knowing that the love for your lost family member still exists even if they are not here anymore. Take all the time and care that you need – you have already gone through so much pain, so don’t add any more burden on yourself. Be gentle with yourself and cherish all the good memories, along with accepting what has happened in order to heal.