Surviving the Loss of a Child

by Pam Adams, Licensed Clinical Social Worker Intern
Supervised by Stephanie Washington, MSW, Ed.D., LCSW-S

Hopefully you have never experienced the death of a child.  But there are some families that are hit with such a loss. 

Whether the child dies as a result of a car accident, drug overdose, serious illness or other cause, the loss of a child is extremely painful  and unlike the loss of any other person in life.  Parents feel that a part of them has died and been ripped away from them. 
The first reaction of parents is to feel numb.  They don’t feel pain, but they don’t feel pleasure either – more of a sense of deadness.  They go through life doing daily chores as if they are on autopilot.    Slowly the pain of grief creeps into life.   


Soon parents find themselves in a period of acute grieving, where the emotional pain is very great.  Very little has meaning to the parent.  Some of the symptoms of this stage are shock, depression, anger, guilt, difficulty making decisions, trouble with tasks requiring thinking, sleeping and eating problems.  This stage tends to last about a year or can take longer.Finally, the parents begin to adapt to life without their child.  One part of this involves things like deciding what to do with their clothes, but yet keeping special items of the child’s to preserve memories and a continuing sense of connection even while living without the child.


            Things to Remember:
1.      Grief of a parent is a long process.  Wherever you are in the process is o.k., it is where you are.  (Ignore the comments of others who believe you should “snap out of it” or “you should be better by now”.) 
2.     Connect with people with whom you are able to be honest and still be accepted.  Grief is too much to bear alone.  Sometimes parents in your situation are the best support.  Compassionate Friends is a good support group for parents who have lost a child. They have numerous locations in Houston and the surrounding area.
3.     Expect a roller coaster of emotions.  At one moment you will be composed, but in the next minute you are hit by a memory and are sobbing.  Mourning parents easily feel that they are crazy because of the up and down nature of their emotions.  You are not crazy; you are grieving your child.
4.     Allow all your feelings to emerge.  Don’t try to stuff them even if they don’t seem acceptable.  Sometimes parents find it helpful keep a journal and write down their feelings as they go through the grief process.
5.    Feel free to see a counselor if you are concerned about yourself or are disturbed by your grief process.  The counselor can reassure you as to what is normal or help you if you feel stuck.