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Golisano Children's Hospital / Bereavement Support / Things You May Be Feeling


Things You May Be Feeling

Grieving the Loss of a ChildCouple grieving at home

Parental bereavement is different from other losses. In addition to grieving the loss of your child, you are grieving the loss of your future together and the hopes and dreams you held for your child. Grief responses for bereaved parents are often more intense and prolonged than grief over other losses. Give yourself time and space to heal and a great deal of grace in the process.

Grief Reactions

Most grief reactions fall within a wide spectrum. While you may feel unsteady and lost in the world right now, much of what you are feeling is normal for a bereaved parent. Your emotions may change from day to day (or minute to minute) but common grief responses after the death of a child include:

  • Intense shock, confusion, disbelief, and denial
  • Overwhelming sadness and despair

“After my daughter died, I felt scared and alone even though we were surrounded by support.”
– Cindy, mother of Caroline

  • Anger and feelings of bitterness
  • Fear of being alone and isolated
  • Feelings of resentment toward parents with healthy children
  • Flashbacks or repeated images of how your child died
  • Sleep and eating disturbances
  • Longing to talk about your child
  • Longing to look at images of your child or hear their voice
  • Feeling alone and out of place in public places

“When we lost Cooper we felt lost and empty. His struggle and fight were also ours, and then it was over...and he was gone.”
– Tom and Becky, parents of Cooper

  • Alienation from organized religion
  • Difficulty communicating with partner or other family members
  • Fear you might be going crazy
  • Fear that surviving children may die

Finding Your Way Through Grief

There is not a linear path through grief. Many parents have expressed that you never “get over” the loss but you will get through it. Grief changes with time. There will come a day when the hurt will ease to the point that you are ready to consider future dreams and rebuild life again. This doesn’t mean you have forgotten your child. It simply means that you have given your grief the opportunity to sit alongside your joy.

Be gentle with yourself and your emotions. Do whatever it is that you can handle doing today and release what you don’t have the strength or energy to do. Now is the time to lean on others and ask for help. Everyone grieves differently and the process takes time.