All loss is hard, but losing a child is a loss like no other. Parents who experience the death of a child are confronted with the most enduring and intense grief , especially when the death is sudden and without warning. You may grief for your child’s shattered dreams and aspirations, and the experiences that you will never share . Coping with grief is challenging and healing will take time.
Overwhelming shock, anger and sadness are commonly experienced after the loss. While we all experience grief differently , there are five common stages of grief when processing a loss .
Denial: For some, this may be their first response. You may doubt the reality of the situation as a temporary solution for the sudden rush of emotions . Using this as a coping mechanism for a while may not be unhealthy , and it gives you time to process the loss at your own pace.
Anger: As reality sets in, the feelings you have denied may resurface as feelings of anger. It may be directed at a person, an object or a higher power like God. It’s also possible to feel anger towards the situation or your child as you may resent them for causing you pain by leaving .
Bargaining: This stage of grief involves a lot of questioning the ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ as you brood over how your actions could have prevented the loss . For some, you may make a deal with yourself or a higher power like God in hopes that your actions can improve the situation .
Depression: When the reality of the inevitable loss sinks in, you may find yourself experiencing immense sadness, despair and even a lack of purpose. There’s no deadline as to when you should move out of this stage. As anguishing as it may feel, it’s a necessary part of your healing journey .
Acceptance: This is when your mind acknowledges the full reality of the loss and learns to live with it . It’s a sign of finding resolution and moving forward in life. Occasionally, you may still experience the ache and sorrow from the loss, but you are ready to embrace it as your new reality .
As devasting as it may be, there are healthy ways to grieve as a couple and heal from it.
Be sensitive to each other’s needs: Give yourself the time and space to grief both on your own and together as a couple . The death of a child may put immense strain on your marriage as each partner grieves differently, and one person may show more grief than the other . Be sensitive to the differences in the way you grieve, and don’t expect them to respond in the way you do .
Communicate openly: There is potential for misunderstandings and conflicts if a couple fails to understand each other’s perspective . Setting aside time each day to share and hear from each other can be helpful. Seek to be emotionally present and listen with compassion . When you lean on each other for support, it reminds you that you are not alone in this grief journey.
Set boundaries: For some, you may find comfort in spending more time with your loved ones. For others, you may need time to process your thoughts and feelings alone. Establish boundaries around areas like your time, energy and emotions, and let your partner know how they can respect them .
Take care of your health: Grief can take a toll on your health and physical activity is proven to be beneficial for the mind and body . Taking a stroll or stretching together each day is a good form of exercise. Focus on small and simple amounts of activity that are sustainable for the long run.
Seek for professional help: When your grief has become so intense that it’s affecting your daily functions or marriage, consider seeking professional help. It can be helpful to have a counsellor journey with you through the stages of grief and guide you in managing your emotions . TOUCH Mental Wellness offers support for those who are distressed or having negative thoughts. You may call the TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm) to speak with a counsellor.
Grieving the loss of your child is painful, but having the support of your loved ones and the community can make the journey more bearable. Healing from this heart-wrenching loss will take time. Be gentle and patient with yourself and your partner as you cope with grief and heal from it.
TOUCH Mental Wellness (TMW) runs personalised therapy and counselling programmes to empower individuals to rise above their circumstances. An advocate of mental wellness, TMW has been organising mental wellness awareness mass runs, talks and workshops since 2015. It works closely with corporations to conduct mental wellness talks with an aim of equipping employees with handles to cope with stress and help them build resilience. It also specialises in mental wellness awareness and educational programmes for schools.
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