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How to Survive the Death of Your Child

The death of a child is the most devastating loss. You have mixed emotions; it's really painful. Read through this article to help you get through ...

How to Survive the Death of Your Child article provided by wikiHow. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Survive the Death of Your Child

The death of a child is the most devastating loss. You have mixed emotions; it's really painful. Read through this article to help you get through tough times.

edit Steps

  1. 1
    Know that you are entitled to all of your feelings and emotions. During the first year you will probably feel numb. You may experience intense anger, guilt, denial, and fear, all of which are normal for a bereaved parent. After the first anniversary of your child's death, the numbness begins to wear off and the true reality hits you hard. Many parents say that the second year is the hardest. I believe our brain creates this numbness to protect us from going insane, from feeling the full blunt of our loss all at once.
  2. 2
    Know that there is no time table on your grieving process. Every individual is just that, an individual. There are many similarities in the processes a bereaved parent goes through, however each parent's journey is different depending on the diversity of our life's circumstances.
  3. 3
    Be very gentle with yourself.
    • Grief must be selfish in order to survive. Put yourself first! If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be much good to your loved ones.
    • You are not going insane, you are not crazy, you are grieving the loss of your child.
    • If you can, take time off from work, although a quick return to work helps some parents.
    • Sleep is very important!
    • Remember to try and eat something every day and drink plenty of fluids.
    • Avoid alcohol and illegal drug use, as these are downers and will increase your depression severely.
    • Do not allow anyone to dictate how you should or shouldn't grieve. Only you know deep down inside what is best for you.
    • Know that it is ok to take time off from grieving, to smile, laugh and enjoy life. This does not mean you are forgetting your child-that's impossible.
    • Understand that the loss of your child may damage your religious faith, and that's ok too.
  4. 4
    Know that it is scientifically proven that a loss of this magnitude is similar to a major physical injury. [1]
  5. 5
    Set healthy boundaries for yourself. Give yourself space and time to grieve. Know that it's OK to isolate yourself and grieve in private, however balance is very important in all aspects of the grief journey.
    • Socializing/Activities
    • Media consumption
  6. 6
    Find a support network. There are many forums online dedicated to supporting people living with loss, however be aware that many include all types of loss (parents, partners, siblings, even pets). Look for one that is specifically for parents grieving the loss of a child, to receive better understanding of your specific loss.
    • Online message forums (Google is a great avenue to find online support groups)
    • Local meetings for grief support
    • Your religious institution
  7. 7
    Read books about grief. (again Google is a great resource to find books on grief.)
  8. 8
    Create a memorial for your child. Many parents find great comfort in creating a memorial for their child, whether it be online, in their home, or a garden.
  9. 9
    Wait at least one year before making any major decisions.
    • Relocating
    • Divorce
    • Large purchases
  10. 10
    A counselor may help. A good therapist/grief counselor can be difficult to find, however is worth it if you need one on one assistance. Many parents find that counseling is not very helpful, if the counselor hasn't lived through the loss of their own child. All the education in the world can not teach someone what a bereaved parent feels. Be sure to interview the counselor over the phone before scheduling an appointment.
    • Ask if they have counseled bereaved parents before.
    • Ask if they have studied Thanatology (the study of death) and are capable of providing grief counseling.
    • Ask if they counsel from a religious perspective.
    • Ask if they have decent schedule availability to accommodate you. (You may feel you will need weekly hour long sessions-be sure their schedule can handle that)
    • Ask about their methodology in treating for grief/depression/PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
  11. 11
    Prescribed Medication may help however will not dissolve your pain. Many parents find that medication for sleep is a necessity. Many parents also find that anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication helps them cope better. There are many variations of these medications, and finding the right one that works best is often a daunting task, but worth it, if it helps in the long run.
  12. 12
    Re-evaluate your relationships if they become hurtful.
    • Pull closer those that accept that you are forever changed, and that are able to accept your grieving process.
    • Distance yourself and set strong boundaries with those who insist on dictating your grieving process.
    • Try to remember that no one can truly understand your grief unless they have lived it themselves. Try to let your loved ones know how they can help you, and ask that they respect your feelings.
  13. 13
    Know that time is a huge factor. It may be some time before you can even look at your child's photographs without loosing it. Memories will hurt to your core, even the good ones, in time you will come to cherish those memories, and they will once again bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. Grief is similar to a roller coaster, or the ocean's tide.
  14. 14
    Fight a good fight in honor of your child. After the loss of a child, parents often feel as if they have died too, that their will to live left with their child. For some, finding purpose in life seems fruitless, while others are given new purpose through their loss.
    • If your child was ill, consider giving your time and efforts to a charity that works to eradicate that illness.
    • If your child was killed in an accident or other violent way, see if there is an organization dedicated to preventing this from happening to other children. A wonderful example of this would be John Walsh, whose son Adam was murdered at age 6 - he has gone on to help sponsor legislation to toughen laws on those convicted of violence against children, and through his television show, to catch violent criminals who have evaded capture. Not everyone can be John Walsh, but there may be things you can do in smaller, more individual ways that can still benefit others, while helping yourself heal at the same time.
    • Form a scholarship in your child's name.
  15. 15
    Try not to sweat the small stuff. As a bereaved parent we are surviving the worst! We can survive anything now.
  16. 16
    Know that you are not alone. Just reach out for help, it is out there.

edit Tips

  • Take baby steps.
  • Don't put time limits on your recovery. It may be years before you begin to feel normal again, and that normal will be a new normal. It may be that you never feel quite the same again, but that will not mean your life is not worth living - it will not be the same, but it will be different, changed forever by the love for your child, and his or hers for you.
  • Don't expect a day to ever pass without thinking about your child - nor should you even want that. You loved your child dearly, and will deeply miss him or her for the rest of your life, and that's okay.

edit Warnings

  • Some people consider suicide because the pain is so intense they don't believe they can take it. Please do not carry this out - instead, reach out to a help line. There is one at 1-714-639-4673 or, and there are many others, as well.
  • FREE HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

edit Sources and Citations

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