The loss of a baby or child of any age is an unthinkable loss. The ensuing grief can feel all-consuming and the pain can be beyond description. It is often difficult to find the will to carry on in everyday life and the grief journey can seem endless. The bond between parent and child is so strong and bereaved parents do not “get over” the death of their children. There is no closure, but there is, eventually, an acceptance, a new life, a different life. One that will always include your child, but one that looks different than it did before.
One mother wrote, “It feels like a branch from our family tree has been torn off. A small branch, one whose presence completed us, had been ripped from our family and left a large wound. Without it, we were lopsided and off balance. When my other children were born, they did not replace the fallen branch, but created a new branch all their own.”
- A profound longing and emptiness, sadness.
- Crying all the time or at unexpected times.
- Inability to concentrate on anything, frequently misplacing items.
- Wondering “Why?!?”
- Questioning yourself over and over: “IF only I had…?” “Why didn’t I…?”
- Placing unnecessary guilt on yourself or others.
- Anger with yourself, family members, God, the doctor, and even your child for dying.
- Fearing that you are going crazy.
- Great physical exhaustion – grief is hard work and consumes much energy.
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time to avoid the pain.
- Physical symptoms such as heaviness in your chest or having difficulty breathing (if these feelings persist see your physician), tightness in your throat, yawning, sighing, gasping, or even hyperventilating.
- Lack of appetite or over eating.
- Denial of your loss, thinking that your child will return. (Denial can be effectively treated by spiritual leaders as well as psychologists. Seek help if your denial phase persists beyond a month.)
- Needing to tell and retell the story of your child’s death
- Inability to function in your job.
- Sensing your child’s presence, or a scent or touch associated with your child.
- Having difficulty grocery shopping because of seeing your child’s favorite food(s) on the shelves.
- Losing old friends who don’t seem to understand your pain and grief.
- Feeling like you are making progress in your grief work, then slipping back into the old feelings. Grief work usually is a succession of two steps forward and one step back over a long period of time.
- Grief work from the death of your child is a slow process. Be patient with yourself.