The death of a child is often a situation so heartbreaking that it has been known for many parents of deceased children to commit suicide – often as part of a joint pact. Nothing can prepare you for the loss if your experience of death so far has been that of a friend or family member whose natural time had come.
There is a Buddhist expression that a good life is one where you die before your son and that he dies before his son. It’s the natural progression of life, and when we see it disrupted – the hopes and dreams of what was to be the life of a child becoming an adult and raising their own children, the disruption can cause untold grief.
The grief can be hardest to bear by those parents who have an especially spiritual outlook on life – calling into question the presence of the god they looked to for safety and protection. Such a dilemma of faith can call into question a host of other former staunch beliefs such as the existence of an afterlife.
It’s all too easy to cast blame on one another for situations that may have led to the death of the child, and the usual behavior of isolation from the situation can cause a rift between parents who might have expected someone they could count on to help share their grief, only to be confronted with someone who seems like a stranger.
The way through this kind of grief is fraught with possible ill feeling against others, and yourself. You need to let go of any unnecessary guilt. Emotions will be much more intense than you will have otherwise experienced, and that causes a huge drain. It’s vital that you maintain as much of a sleep pattern as possible.
Avoid downers. Cigarettes, drugs, alcohol; all crutches that you may be tempted to lean on but all come with a downside that will increase your lethargy and depression. Without being able to think clearly, you will never escape the grief that surrounds you.
Remember that it’s okay to smile or laugh. You are not disrespecting your child. At some point in your life, you may have experienced your child asking you why you were unhappy or upset. If you recall the concern on their faces you might get a glimpse of how they might feel about your permanent unhappiness.
Your recovery from grief is important so that you can do something good in the wake of your child’s death – such as work to bring attention to the plight of other children suffering the same disease, changing legislation about a product that may have caused their death or bringing about changes in road safety. The focus of your work will depend on the circumstances of your child’s death, but doing anything to prevent the situation happening to other children will act as a catharsis for your own pain.