Grief author and educator Dr. John Canine offers the following thoughts regarding the death of a child:
Perhaps the most difficult loss one can endure is the death of a child. If you have experienced this, please know that it is normal to experience many different, often complex, emotions. Children are about our future as we watch them grow, change, create, and reach their potential. As adults, when we see the future in our children, it brings us great hope. When a parent dies, some of our past is gone. When a spouse dies some of our present is taken from us. But, when a child dies we see our future destroyed. The loss of our future can also lead to a loss of hope.
That is why so many surviving parents sense such great “hopelessness.” You may feel cheated and robbed, perhaps a feeling of things being “incomplete.” The physical and emotional bond you had with your child has changed, and you now are being forced to relinquish the attachment to all the dreams and expectations you may have had for your child. This is a lot for any person to endure; please know there are many resources available to you during this difficult time.
When my infant daughter died I remember going into her room that I had painted pink. All the toys were in the closet. I suddenly realized she would never see that room and she would never play with those toys. At times it was overwhelming and I realized that I was the victim. My role as protector and provider had been taken from me.
As a parent, it is normal for you to suffer from what is called “survivor guilt.” You may be questioning, “Why couldn’t it have been me, not my child?” This type of guilt is different and more intense than the guilt of a surviving spouse or sibling. Also, if your child died unexpectedly or suddenly, this can greatly complicate your grief.
I am sure you can imagine that your family, friends and colleagues want to be of support to you. Realize that death is a very difficult subject to discuss for most people. The death of child is even more emotional and complicated to discuss. For these reasons, many persons close to you may say nothing for fear that they will say the “wrong” thing to you. Please do not mistake this silence as their not caring. You may feel isolated, but know that you are not.
I strongly recommend to persons who have suffered the loss of a child to seek private counseling or to join a support group of other parents with a similar loss. Hearing the experiences of others in a safe environment will help validate your feelings and the support you will gain will be invaluable on your grief journey.
To learn more about Dr. Canine’s work, go to: www.maximumlivingconsult.com
Always remember, you are not alone. There are others who understand and are ready to help. The grief resources available to you will vary by community. Your NFDA funeral director is a great place to start to learn about support available in your area.