Experiencing the death of a child, or losing a baby during pregnancy, is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can face.
Such a loss is devastating.
You will not only be grieving for the loss of your child but also for the hopes and dreams you had for them and for your future life together.
You may go through many difficult emotions such as deep sorrow, anger, disbelief and guilt – it’s important to experience these feelings. Blocking your grief can disrupt the grieving process.
There’s no timetable for grieving for a child and everyone is different. Be patient with yourself.
Wanting to blame someone or something after the death of a loved one is a natural reaction. A grieving parent may want to blame themselves, their partner or people involved in their child’s care or death. It’s common to keep thinking ‘if only I had’.
Couples may find that they have different ways of grieving and different ways of coping. Grief can put huge pressure on a relationship – it’s important to understand that your partner may have different ways of expressing their pain.
Parents with other children will need to ‘carry on’ with normal day-to-day activities – which can put the natural grieving process ‘on hold’. Make sure you take time to work through your feelings. Ask family and friends to help out at home if necessary.
Many parents who have lost a child may experience numbness in the first year. This is a natural defence which protects people from overwhelming pain. Feelings will return with time.
Sometimes the loss of a child can bring parents closer to their remaining children but it can also make them more distant and the needs of other children can sometimes be overlooked. A remaining child can feel lost in a confusing situation in which their parents’ attention may be focused on their own grief.
Even very small children can feel loss and will know that something is happening. They may even blame themselves if they don’t understand why their sibling died. Be honest and open with other children and let them know that it’s OK to feel sad and angry and to talk about their lost sibling. Encourage them to keep memories alive and let them know it’s still alright to be a kid and do things they enjoy. Try to take some space and go out as a family and do normal things sometimes.
Parents who have lost children are likely to experience anxiety. This can involve worrying and being overprotective about their remaining children or feeling more anxious that other bad things might happen. It’s also common to experience the physical symptoms of anxiety such as shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and aching limbs.
Some parents can experience symptoms of trauma – including mood swings, nightmares or flashbacks – especially in such cases as an accidental death, homicide or a missing child.
Parents who have lost a child can feel isolated – their friends may feel uncomfortable talking to them and not know what to say or do. Friends with children of their own may not want to face the reality that sometimes children can die. Join a local support group so you can chat and share your experiences with other parents who have had similar experiences.
Some parents may want to go back to work quite quickly to distract their attention from what has happened; others may find the thought of returning unbearable. Check your company’s bereavement policy and return to work when you’re ready.
You can find support in the MindWell Directory: