Dan Trathen DMin, PhD Clinical Psychologist & Certified Business & Life Coach

Dealing with the Death of a Child

Dr Dan for Today

Dealing with the Death of a Child

It is said that the worst thing that can befall a parent is the death of their child. It certainly seems to be reflected in the alarmingly high divorce rate among parents who have lost a child. Divorce is not inevitable and many marriages do make it through this terrible and challenging experience. One of the major challenges seems to be coming to terms with differences in grieving styles. One partner may wish to stop talking about the child’s death and the other may want to talk a great deal about it to process the grief, thus creating further stress at an already stressful time.

            Acknowledge that each person has his or her style and timing. Some people like to hold on to the child and some prefer to let go. Some prefer to speak about their grief or cry about it and others feel numb or want to process it in silence. There is no right way or wrong way to deal with death.

            Likewise with books and pamphlets about the grieving process. Nobody can tell anyone else the right way to, the right timing for or the proper stages for grief. Even if you don’t think you are doing it correctly, are numb, are “overly” upset, feel relief or feel guilty, these can all be part of a “normal” grief process. Don’t let anyone tell you what is right for you if it ­doesn’t fit for you.

            Some people find that making a donation, doing public speaking, or working to raise public awareness or make some changes in the world can be ways to give the child’s death some meaning and find some higher purpose to cope with the loss. What would give your child’s death some meaning? What contribution could his or her death, as terrible as it is, make to others?

            Some find that instead of letting the child go, they can imagine that the child is there to give them advice and consolation at this time of grief (and perhaps for years into the future). Friends and family, even professionals, will often urge you to say good-bye. Perhaps it would be best for you to say hello again. What would your child say to you now to help you cope with the situation?

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