Losing a child is one of life’s biggest tragedies

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Sooner or later, it comes to nearly all of us. Somewhere between birth and death, we will have to say a final goodbye to someone who is at the centre of our world. But losing a child — that’s never something we, as parents, are expected to deal with, we are not programmed to deal with our child’s death. The feeling of loss cuts deep; we bring children into the world with great hopes for their future — all that promise, all those hopes, all those possibilities disappear in an instant.

 As a newly bereaved parent you have been thrust into an experience that is different beyond your wildest expectations. From a comparatively comfortable existence you are thrown into a pit of the most devastating and debilitating pain that anyone will ever know.

 No one gets “used” to grief, it is like a wound and it leaves a scar. It does get better, even if time doesn’t heal all wounds completely, but life will never be the same. People have to find a new normal, where they can balance life and still remember the person who has died.

 When you are grieving there is a strong feeling to want to be alone. This may even mean that you do not want to be around other close family members or friends. As time passes, it is important to reach out to those who are close to share stories or plans for the future you had about the child who has died. This becomes part of your healing process.

 Feelings of unreality, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, general apathy, guilt, hostility and idealization of the dead child are all normal feelings. Many of us who have been bereaved for a year or longer have experienced these feelings‚ and have found ways to protect ourselves and to survive. One parent sums it up this way,

 “Often there is a certain amount of guilt involved, whether real or imagined. People need to realize that other parents have these feelings and they are not alone with them. There is something about knowing that someone else has had those feelings and fears: because at times you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you. I think that no matter how much loving family support, how many friends you have, what your religious beliefs are, or anything else , there are times when it is not enough…it’s very important and beneficial to talk to someone who has been there.”

 If you are a newly bereaved parent you may find support and friendship through The Compassionate Friends. 


The mission of The Compassionate Friends is to assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age and to provide information to help others be supportive.  Today more than 600 chapters serving all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico offer friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents.  For more details visit their website at www.compassionatefriends.org


Our thoughts….

As a parent, you cannot imagine nor want to even think about the possibility of losing a child.  The latest death statistics for children are greater for those in the ages between 1 and 4 at 4,703 or 28.6 per 100,000 with the leading causes being either accidental or congenital malformation.  For ages between 5 and 14 the rate is 6,147 or 15.3 per 100,000 with the leading cause being accidental or cancer.  For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4500 lives lost each year. The top three methods used in suicides of young people include firearm (46%), suffocation (39%), and poisoning (8%).  In 2005, there were 25, 894 reported fetal deaths of 20 weeks of gestation or more in the United States according to the CDC.

Coping with the loss of a child is just that coping.  Life will never be the same and each parent will continue to remember each date with intense grief; their birthday, their first Christmas, the date of the death.  However, we want to encourage those grieving the loss of a child that all our conversations with these parents and our search in resources have found that smiles one day can return and laughter will occur again in your home.  A new study released by the Compassionate Friends that despite intense grief following the death of a child, bereaved parents tend to have a low divorce rate, contrary to the persistent myth.  We highly recommend as earlier outlined, the resources and community you can find support in The Compassionate Friends.   This summer they will be holding their 12th annual Walk to Remember.  You can create a memorial website, participate in their annual conference or you can have a special name carried in the Walk to Remember.  Reach out to a friend or loved one and let them know how they can help you.  Never feel as if you are a burden to them or pretend that things are normal.  They need to know how to support you.  We also recommend the tremendous release you can find in journaling.  To be able to share your feelings, thoughts, remembrances, special times, sadness and anger can be healing in your writing. 

 In the book, The Christmas Box, Richard Paul Evans recounts a story of a mother/widow after the loss of a child and her connection to a family that comes to live with her (his family).  You can find additional details at his website www.richardpaulevans.com   You may also be encouraged by her story of writing letters to her daughter.   In the book, a woman mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel monument.  In response to reports that grieving parents were seeking out the angel as a place to grieve and heal. The monument was dedicated on December 6, 1994-corresponding with the date of the child’s death in The Christmas Box  (Coincidentally, Dec. 6th is celebrated in many parts of the world as Children’s Day).  The sculpture is the creation of a father and son from Salt Lake City, Utah, Ortho and Jared Fairbanks, and modeled according to the description in Evans’ book. The face of the angel is that of Evans’ second daughter, Allyson-Danica. If you look closely you can find on the angel’s right wing (west) the word “hope.”

Sympathy Solution’s mission is to support those grieving.  We have many gifts that parents have found helpful in their loss.  Memorial stones are a perfect way to create a special garden or place of remembrance for the love of your life.  Newly added, is also a “Plant a Tree for Me”.  Planting a memorial tree has become a well recognized ritual that many have found very healing and provides a sense of hope for a new life.  Some have planted letters alongside the tree.  We hope you will find a meaningful way to memorialize your loss with our offerings.  http://www.sympathysolutions.com/catalog/category/children-young-adult/index.html

As always, we welcome your comments, feedback and suggestions.  Please contact us at info@sympathysolutions and we would be happy to assist you in any way we can.

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