One of the most, if not the most, difficult thing for a parent to do is to deal with the loss of their child, but how?
The greatest treasure we have is the ability to love. When a child is born, parents often wonder what kind of person this child will become as an adult. There are so many experiences to be had and lessons to be learned.
What if one of the greatest tragedies strikes and your child doesn’t survive? To be left with the reality of the aftermath of this type of loss is what many parents try to avoid as they struggle to cope, mostly in unhealthy ways. Sooner rather than later, the coping mechanisms fail, forcing you to confront what you’d rather not. Moving forward when the time feels stuck at the moment of the most tragic news, is no easy decision. That is why there are stages of dealing with the loss of a child, as well as other losses.
You may feel intense sorrow for your child, sorrow that may become less intense over time, but may still be there. If you switch your thinking to how your child feels now, not then, then maybe you can see that maybe it is your child who is feeling intense sorrow for you as he or she watches over you, helpless to cheer you up. Take this time to mourn your loss and do not expect yourself to feel good at this time. It is ok to not be ok.
2. Talk to someone you trust
Do not be alone in your struggle. By talking to someone you trust, you can release some of your thoughts and emotions in a safe way. This is especially helpful if you go to therapy, particularly group or family therapy for trauma. By talking about what happened, you may discover that other couples have been through the same thing and you may find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
3. Let go of blame
It isn’t like you intended for this loss to happen, however, it did. Even the strongest, fastest, or wisest person may not have been able to turn around the events leading up to the loss. You did everything you could. Had you known your child would suffer beforehand, you still may not have been able to stop it before something else happens. If you are religious, let go of your anger and blame to the higher power you believe in. Trust in that higher power, and if you can’t trust, practice increasing your faith that someone is watching over you and your child.
4. Write in a journal
If talking to someone is too much to handle, try writing your thoughts, worries, concerns, etc. down in a journal. Speak through writing with your child, letting them know in this way that they are loved and dearly missed. Do this at least a few times a week for several months or years. As time goes by, you may notice that the tone of your writing may have changed from that of a person who is in deep despair to someone who may be on the path towards healing.
5. Let go of sentimental items
There is nothing wrong with holding onto a few sentimental items or photos, but when there is clutter left behind from loss, it is also like keeping your child at the moment of loss. Time freezes in this way. Allow yourself to go through this clutter item by item and select the ones that have the most meaning. Take a picture of it if you want to, and let go of all the sentimental items.
Take time to feel time move again in the room. Pay close attention to how you feel about this. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to think or do. Relax and know that it is time to do this, for your sake and for the sake of your child. Letting go of sentimental items related to any kind of trauma is very difficult as it is, that is why it is very important to not do this alone unless you are sure you can handle it on your own.
6. Use your voice/forgive yourself
The greatest gift you can give to your child is the gift of using your voice to speak the truth of what happened, the memories you shared, the good times, the times when everything fell apart but you managed to make it through. Celebrate the life your child did manage to live and celebrate you for doing what many couples rarely ever do, and that is to make peace with the past and to forgive yourself.
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