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Surviving the loss of a child

by Bobbie Knealing

The loss of a child is something no parent ever thinks can happen to him or her. The normal flow of things is that you are born, you grow up, get married and have children. You then watch your children go through all these experiences and wait for grandchildren. The circle of life is not supposed to end with a child dying.

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages one goes through after death touches their life: 1) Denial and isolation, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression, and 5) Acceptance. After experiencing the loss of a child, you go through the same range of emotions you go through at the loss of a friend, or grandparent. But there is a difference, too.

A parent's job is to see to their children, look after them and meet all their needs. It is not in the normal course of things to be seeing to your child's burial. After a child dies a parent can settle into a deep depression brought on by guilt. It doesn't matter that in most cases there was nothing at all that the parent could have done to save their child; if your child dies you will feel pangs of guilt. It's normal, and some even say it's expected. It's something you have to get through in your own time and in your own way.

When it comes to death everyone has a unique way of dealing/coping.

When your child dies it's not something you ever get over, or get past. A parent deals with this every single day. It doesn't get better; the pain never goes away. However, the parent learns to live with the feelings on a day by day basis, given time and support.

Every morning when you wake up it hits you like a brick to the head. Your child is not going to face the day with you. What motivates you to get up and get out of bed?

Some parents have other children that need to be tended too. That's can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand you are so thankful for the reason to get out of bed each day and for having something to occupy so much of your time and thoughts. It can be a curse if you end up being resentful that one child was able to live and the other was not. While it may not be a pleasant thought, it does happen. In cases like this counseling should be sought out.

Support groups can be the saving grace for parents who are not getting support from friends or family. Support groups can be found through churches or hospitals. Our former Surgeon General, Dr. Koop, has a web page that has a chat room and a bulletin board for bereaved parents. The Internet is a great resource for the bereaved parent. AOL has message boards for bereaved parents, as well as chat rooms. You can do searches in the member database for other parents experiencing the same feelings.

Talking about your angel not only helps you deal with your pain and sadness but can be helpful to others in the same predicament. Talking about your child also helps to keep her alive in your heart.

Don't be afraid to talk about her as much, or as little as you need to. It is your grief to handle in whichever way works for you. Those around you may be uncomfortable with the topic, and may not know what to say, or say all the wrong things. The important thing right now is you and how you are feeling and helping you to get through the time as best as you can.

Creating remembrances is a way to keep your child's memories alive as well as keeping them a part of the family, depending on where you place it. At framing or craft stores you can buy shadow boxes. These shadow boxes can be filled with trinkets, photographs or other items that will spark happy memories of your child. An attractive container can be used to hold items that you want to keep near you and still be able to touch them hold them next to you, inhale the scents that invoke the memories.

Often times parents take the extremes when it comes to parenting after the loss of a child. The extremes are getting pregnant right away again, or making the decision never to have another child. Despite how it looks, it's not an attempt to replace the child. What they are doing is trying to fill a void in their hearts and lives. You can never replace one child with another. A parent who has lost a child has all this love and energy that they don't know what to do with.

Whichever route a parent chooses to travel in order to become motivated to get up and get out of bed each morning, it's important that they have the love and support of those around them. That can make all the difference in the world.


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