Self-Care > Coping with the Death of a Child
Things you need to know if your child has died:
You may find that in general people do not understand the depth of your devastation. For lots of reasons, loss can be a difficult thing for friends and family to discuss. They might become especially uncomfortable when you mention your child's name or tell them you plan to celebrate your child's birthday or tell them you wish to have them recognize Mother's Day by remembering your child with you. It can be difficult to not get angry when family and friends do not understand.
After my first son died, I discovered that there are so many reasons my family and friends do not always understand. It might be generational. In our grandmother's day, if a woman lost a child, she went on with her life as soon as possible. She had another child as soon as possible. She might name the next child with the same name as the child she lost. And she was encouraged to "forget" the child she lost, to not mention the loss. To simply go on as if it were "over." Today, we have different ideas about grief and healing. But older family members may not understand this.
Other family and friends may be afraid to bring up the subject of your loss. Some have children of their own and are afraid to look at this most horrible of realities, afraid it might happen to them if they acknowledge the loss. Some might just be afraid to "upset you" and may not realize that you are already thinking of your child every day even if they try to "distract" you with other things. Some just don't know what to say. They don't realize that a simple affirmative nod or a hug will do. They don't know that sometimes you just need them to listen. Some feel the need to "fix" this for you and find it frustrating to realize there is no "fix".
And sometimes it is just difficult to convey to people that we have changed from this experience of loss. The family and friends you are dealing with may be people who have known you your whole life. They think you are the same person you have always been. You look kind of the same. You still drink tea, or coffee, or water with a slice of lemon like always. You still like the color purple. You still appear on the outside to be the same person they have always known.
But of course the reality is that you are a different person since your child's death. You are a different parent, child, brother, sister, friend, woman, man, wife, husband, partner. You are different all the way down to the cellular level as every pregnancy a woman has changes her cellular make-up to incorporate white cells of each of the children she carried(see Dr. Bianchi's work for more on this reality). And your life is different now, too. No matter how things stablize, no matter how "good" life gets, you know through and through that your life is forever without your child.
Sometimes if people haven't experienced this kind of loss first hand, they just don't get it. They do not understand forever nor without. And so they may not understand who you are now. It's okay. They don't have to understand, and you can still love them. But if you feel "crazy" or "lonely" or "alone" in this world because they don't understand, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE find other parents who are enduring the death of a child, too! Another parent in this same situation will understand! They will know how to listen to you! They will know what to say!
Surf online for grief support organizations. Find ones that offer discussion boards or chat rooms. Post, read, write. Surf here in the KotaPress archives, or in the KOTA blog, or over at Radical Creativity with MotherHenna. Read the articles. Download a free copy of the eBook Mrs. Duck and The Woman from the MotherHenna site. Check out Still Life 365 project, Glow In The Woods, Still Life With Circles, Beauty In the Breakdown, Faces of Loss, and please know that:
You are not alone.
This page is dedicated to
About the Author
Kara L.C. Jones aka Mother Henna is the Coach & Artist behind all the offerings and services over at MotherHenna.com and she is one of the co-educators at The Creative Grief Studio. She and her partner Hawk co-founded KotaPress in 1999.