Understanding Parental Grief

It is commonly believed that the sorrow of bereaved parents is greater than any other grief known. The loss of a child is equivalent to losing a part of themselves and they feel that a vital part of them has been torn apart.

There is a certain disbelief attached to the death of a child. Parents are meant to outlive their children…children are not meant to die. The paradox is that the bereaved parents need to go on living yet they also feel the need to hang on to their grief as a reminder of the child who has died

These bereaved parents don’t cease to be the parents of the deceased child but have to accept the fact that they will never see their child or participate in the life of that child again. Therefore, they need to find ways to hang on to the memories.

Often, parents who have lost a child will tell you that the memories are what helps to create the inner peace needed to heal. In other words, they learn how to retain that closeness with the deceased child through these memories.

Mental health professionals agree that parental grief is very complex and an incredibly traumatic emotional crisis. This grief needs to be acknowledged and the intensity of the grief understood.

For these parents, the grief is a long and painful process. They must try to find some meaning for the loss and learn to live their lives without the child. The intensity of parental grief is frightening and they often feel very alone.

Bereaved parents often strive to continue to make their child’s presence known and felt in the lives of others. They see the time they had with their child as a gift and see it as a gift to others as well. In this way, they can continue to love and value the life of the child.

Despite the changing composition of the family in the minds of others, the birth order of the child who has died remains fixed within the thoughts of the parents and the child is considered to be a part of the family forever. The death of the child creates a void in the family that also lasts forever.

We all know that death itself is common to all beliefs and cultures. It transcends all races and powers. In death, there is both individuality and commonality and all who are touched by the experience of death react in a different way. The death of a child, however, is such a devastating experience that it takes both a physical and emotional toll on the parents and other family members.

One of the commonalities of the grief of parents when their child has died is the sense of its enormity. There is a sensation that the pain will never end. The feelings of these parents need to be expressed so that their anger does not become destructive to them in the future.

Other commonalities are the feeling that they must always hold on to this grief so that they never let go of the child. Also, the general sense of disorientation is common to grieving parents.

Grieving parents need to be able to talk about the death of their child and how they are feeling and they may need to do this many times over. It is part of the grieving process. These feelings and thoughts need to be processed in order for the healing process to begin.

Grieving parents often feel alone and disconnected and learn to live through their grief separately. They need to be aware that there is no timeframe and no expectations of the duration of their grief.

Anyone who wants to help grieving parents through this traumatic experience needs to be aware of the emotional complexity of this issue. Don’t go into this with any preconceived ideas of how the grieving parents should be. The death of a child is so emotionally overwhelming that their responses may not be only bewildering to others but to themselves as well.

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