Losing a Child: Can parents ever cope?
Blame it on blue whale, love failure, depression, stress, ragging, college issues, pressure to perform well, family issues, sexual abuse or other psychiatric disorders, Kerala witnesses’ 25.2 percent of the total teen suicides across the globe which means so many parents lose their teenage kids every year in Kerala.
Nothing can be more devastating than the fact of losing a child. Along with the usual symptoms and stages of grief, there are many issues that make parental deprivation particularly difficult to resolve. And this grief over the loss of a child can be exacerbated and complicated by feelings of injustice — the understandable feeling that this loss never should have happened.
Many parents who have lost their son or daughter express that they feel that they can only “exist” and every motion or need beyond that seems nearly impossible. It has been said that coping with the death and loss of a child requires some of the hardest work one will ever have to do.
The relationship between parents and their children is among the most intense in life. Much of parenting centers on providing and doing for children, even after they have grown up and left home. A child’s death robs you of the ability to carry out your parenting role as you have imagined it, as it is “supposed” to be. You may feel an overwhelming sense of failure for no longer being able to care for and protect your child, duties that you expected to fulfill for many years.
It must be remembered that deprived parents can mourn the death and loss of a child of any age, and that it feels unnatural to outlive a child. It does not make a difference whether your child is three or thirty-three when your son or daughter dies. The emotion is the same. All deprived parents lose a part of themselves.
The search for meaning in a child’s death is especially important to parents. An understanding of how a death fits into the scheme of life is difficult and often unattainable. Faith is a source of comfort for some parents, but others with religious beliefs have expressed feeling betrayed by God. Religious confusion is normal, as is questioning many things that you may have believed to be certain A father dealing with the death of a child said that his faith in life in general had been shattered. He had long believed that if you lived your life as a good person, striving to make a positive contribution to the world, life would turn out well. The death of his son robbed him of that belief. This reaction isn’t uncommon; losing a child feels like the ultimate violation of the rules of life.
Common responses to a child’s death
Shock: After the death and loss of a child you may initially feel numb, which is your mind’s way of shielding you from the pain.
Denial: Your child can’t be dead. You expect to see your son or daughter walk through the door, or to hear a cry on the baby monitor.
Replay: After the death and loss of a child your mind may center on the “what if’s” as you play out scenarios in which your child could have been saved.
Yearning: Many parents report praying obsessively to have even five more minutes with their child so they can tell them how much they love them.
Confusion: After the death and loss of a child your memory may become clouded. You may find yourself driving and not remembering where you’re going. Because your mind is trying to process such a huge shock, normal memory functions can be precluded, putting you in a “haze.” You may at times even question your sanity, though you are not crazy. Your pain is affecting your emotional and psychological systems at an extreme level — a sense of being on overload is common.
Guilt: Guilt appears to be one of the most common responses to dealing with the death of a child. Parents often mentally replay their actions prior to the death and wonder what they may have done differently.
Powerlessness: In addition to feelings of guilt, parents often have a sense of powerlessness that is attributed to feeling that they were not able to protect their child from harm.
Anger: Anger and frustration are also feelings reported by most parents and are common to grief in general. If your child’s death was accidental, these emotions may be intensified. You may also be angry that life seems to go on for others — as if nothing has happened.
Loss of hope: After the death and loss of a child you are grieving not only for your child, but also for the loss of your hopes, dreams and expectations for that child. Time will not necessarily provide relief from this aspect of grief. Parents often experience an upsurge of grief at the time they would have expected their child to start school, graduate, get married, etc. Parents are rarely prepared for these triggers and the wave of grief they bring. Be aware of these triggers, and allow yourself to grieve. This is a normal, appropriate and necessary part of the healing process.
Surviving the death and loss of a child takes a dedication to life. As a parent, you gave birth to life as a promise to the future. Now you must make a new commitment to living, as hard or impossible as it may seem right now. You will survive this; however, the experience may change you.
Your grief will be individual and unique. How you grieve over the death and loss of a child and for how long will be different than for anyone else — you need to allow yourself to grieve in your own way.
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)