When my daughter, Judy, died after being in a coma for five months, I thought I could not survive the grief. Those five months were a roller coaster of hope and despair that began in August and ended with Judy’s death the following January.
The tender love of a parent for a child may be the purest and most sacrificial kind of devotion that human beings can know, and it is precisely because of the intensity of this bond that parents grieve so deeply when their child dies—regardless of age or circumstance.
If you have experienced the death of a daughter or a son, words cannot begin to heal your brokenness or take away your pain. But with time, I hope that the insights that follow will be of value, coming as they do from someone who has been there.
1. Allow shock to do its work.
This time of insulation is important to you as you grieve. No one can absorb the entire reality of loss at once. The pain needs to be allowed to creep in, a little at a time, according to your individual timetable of acceptance.
2. Recognize the uniqueness of each parent’s grief.
Single or separated parents may experience a special burden of isolation at this time of loss. But even in marriage, it is difficult for parents whose agony seems to be crushing their very breath to be thoughtful, compassionate, and supportive of anyone else—including each other.
4. Realize that guilt and anger are normal responses.
It will take lots of time to work through guilt, anger, and the other powerful emotions of grief. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself.
5. Allow others to help.
As early as possible in the grief experience, find a trusted and understanding friend—more than one if possible—to whom you can pour out your most intimate feelings.
6. Face fear and learn to trust again.
Fear often lurks in the emotional shadows, and bereaved parents frequently feel vulnerable and defenseless.With time, you will discover that although you have been changed in deep and lasting ways, you can trust life—and life’s Creator—once again.
There will always be a special place in our hearts for our beloved daughter. And after much time on our grief journey, we have learned to celebrate Judy’s life instead of dwelling on her death. We have discovered that the joy of having known and loved her more than compensates for the anguish of missing her.
May you discover that joy amidst your sorrow as well.
Excerpt from “Finding the Strength to Go On After the Death of a Child” from CareNotes