The impact of the death of a child
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: SUSAN STUBBINGS Counsellor & Counselling Supervisor, Adv. Dip. Reg MBACP
2nd February, 20170 Comments
To hear the news, you are going to have a baby floods your mind with beautiful images of a perfect baby who grows into an adult who eventually brings their own children to visit when you are old and grey. This is what we ‘expect’ in life, the normal order of living.
To bury your own child is not something any parent is prepared for, it's not a natural life expectation, the death of a child goes against all we have been taught, all we know of the natural cycle of life, children are not supposed to die, we expect them to outlive us.
When a child dies all those beautiful images, wishes, desires, hopes and dreams die with them, the parent’s future is pulled from under their feet.
Life has been permanently changed. So what is normal?
Psychologically - you may feel like a part of you has died with them.
Emotionally - shock, numb, confusion, disorientation, disbelieving, guilt, anxieties, fears, dazed foggy feeling, irritable, fidgety, crying all the time or not crying at all. Being consumed with grief and not knowing how to get through.
Physically - exhaustion, fatigue, headaches, migraines, sleep disturbances, nightmares, mood swings, dry mouth, tightness in chest, short of breath, palpitations.
Socially - isolated and isolating, avoiding people, people avoiding you, giving up activities.
Spiritually - anger towards God, spouse, surviving children, your own parents and/or self. Helpless, hopeless, deep sadness and sorrow.
Absolutely everything you experience is normal following the death of your precious and beloved child. You may wonder or ask "Am I going mad, am I crazy? You're not this is a normal response! What is normal is that you will always be a parent and you will love your child for the rest of your life. You will think about your child every day as you live on following the death so they too can live on. Their essence, their uniqueness and the gifts they left you and the world with live on through you.
No two person’s grief will be the same even when grieving the loss of the same child. Many families express people expect them to ‘get over’ the death in a few weeks or months. What is not understood is there is no deeper sorrow for a parent, this is a heartache no one can heal, there is a void so deep and dark parents wonder if they can or will ever get ‘over’ the death of their precious child.
You can and you will!
Yet death is not something to ‘get over’ grieving is a process of acceptance of the loss of your child’s physicality and an emotional, psychological, spiritual and social adjustment, a coming to terms with the loss of dreams, wishes, wants, expectations of the imagined future you had with and for your child. This takes considerable time and you can expect to feel 'not yourself' for some months and even years following the loss of your child. This is normal there is no timeline to grieving so be gentle and kind to and with yourself.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stuck or getting depressed after about six months then self-nurture by visiting your Doctor for advice and support during this very difficult time.
Talking about your feelings with an experienced professional counsellor can support you to make sense of what happened and to support you to accept and adjust to living without your child and support you whilst you find and 'create a new normal' one you can accept.
Turn chaos into clarity, pain into precious memories and peace!
Because 'Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal' - Anon.
About the author
Known as Sue, I work as a BACP registered counselling therapist in and around Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Experienced practitioner advocating for self-awareness, emotional mastery, connection and personal peace.
Passionate about empowering people to recover, build resiliency, maintain healthy emotional, psychological and spiritual inner worlds.
Related articles from our experts
- Multiple loss
Step1Counselling. Isabel Fulcher Registered MBACP20th April, 2017
- What few people know about grief and bereavement
Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor20th April, 2017
- Permission to talk about mental health and grief
Kelly Stewart - Psychotherapist, MA, MBACP19th April, 2017
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.