No one can anticipate quite how they will feel or react after the death of their child; most people describe a ‘rollercoaster’ of emotions, ranging from numbness to furious anger, profound sadness to perhaps a certain relief. People find their own ways of coping with the sadness of bereavement.
Some people value talking about their feelings and their child, finding it hard to concentrate on other activities; others experience difficulty in openly expressing their feelings and prefer, if they can, to immerse themselves in work, hobbies or physical activity.
It can sometimes be difficult for partners to be able to help each other while trying to deal with their own feelings, and relationships often suffer through grief. It is important to try and respect your own instincts and those of others also grieving, about what is right for you and for them as individuals, and understand that people grieve in very different ways.
Trying to help your other children through their grief can be extremely challenging, and talking with them will bring up painful feelings for you. You may feel as if you can’t ‘keep it together’ enough to get through the conversation with them, and you may need other family members or friends to help with this. It may be that your other children don’t fully understand what has happened, and it can help to have them talk to a professional – perhaps your GP or a member of staff from your children’s hospice, if appropriate.
It’s important to bear in mind that your friends will be trying to help you. Sometimes they will not know whether you want to talk about your child or not, and will perhaps say the ‘wrong’ thing, which can seem clumsy or insensitive. They probably don’t know what to say; because they know whatever they say will not be enough. Try to guide them – let them know you want to talk about your child, or that it’s ok if you start to cry, for example.
As time goes on, and day to day life continues, strong painful feelings can remain. Some parents wonder if they will ever feel ok, or if there is any point to life without their child. The anticipation of anniversaries is often worse than the anniversary itself, and can cause long periods of anxiety.
Of course life will never be the same again, but throughout all this, the one thing that can be really comforting is talking and sharing memories of your child. Even if you find it too difficult to talk to your partner, make sure you try to talk to a good friend, or a professional such as your GP.
Resources & Support
Together for Short Lives publishes a family fact sheet on Emotional and Counselling Support which contains contact details for a number of organisations that offer support at this time. If you would like to order hard copies, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your request
Together for Short Lives publishes and stocks a fact sheet called When a Child Dies, designed to answer some of the questions families may have when their child is at the end of their life. If you would like to order hard copies, send an email to email@example.com with your request.
Our Support in your area section provides information on organisations across the UK that might be able to help.