Find support Losing a child The death of a child, of any age, brings heartbreak and devastation. Whether your child died recently or some time ago, the pain will always be there. The following was written by Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds who set up the Good Grief Project following the death of their teenage son, Josh. They ask can there be anything called ‘good’ grief especially when it follows from the death of a child? The following are their reflections and 10 things they as bereaved parents want you to know about grief. 10 things bereaved parents want you to know about grief 1. You can’t fix our grief Our grief is here to stay. Our child has died, but that doesn’t mean that we stop loving them or that they are not present in our lives anymore. Please don’t do or say anything that you think will make it go away. To do so is to reduce further what is already a broken heart. 2. There is no timetable for grief People say that time is a healer but the grief we have for our child has no end. This grief is for life. It’s not something we will “get over”. What you may observe is that grief comes in waves – at times overwhelming, at times barely noticeable but it will never go away. 3. Grief for a child is not like other kinds of grief The death of a child is never a natural event and is always in the wrong order of things. For most bereaved parents life will now seem very unfair. Consequently our grief is going to be of a different order. This is not to say that other forms of grief aren’t valid, just that the death of a child can produce a number of more complicated responses. When an older person dies, generally speaking we have a whole life story to remember – we have their history to tell. When a child dies it’s not only their history, it’s their future we have also lost. 4. Know that we have changed Bereaved parents are a very different people to who we were before our child died. When our child died a huge part of us died too. We have been traumatised by our child’s death and the shock to the system has provoked a new way of looking at life. Our priorities may have changed, our views about faith and the afterlife may have changed and we are in the process of finding ourselves again in what has for us become a very uncertain world. Please have patience while we learn how to trust again. 5. Don’t be afraid to talk about my child or to say their name More than anything we want to talk about our child, to remember how s/he lived even more perhaps than how s/he died. To recall memories with you is to know that you cared for our child and that you care for us. But perhaps more than that sharing stories about our child’s life will help us to accept their death – to make it more real. Remembering to include their name on Christmas cards is always a good thing. 6. Much of the time we will hide our grief. Our lives may appear normal but often we are really struggling just to get out of bed in the morning. We wish we weren’t so broken for the pretence can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Grief is exhausting and it’s not something we necessarily want to share. That might be difficult to understand but sometimes it's like we are living in a parallel universe and it’s not one we would want you to join. Please try not to be offended if you feel shut out from our grief – this is not personal. 7. Don’t run away from our grief. When we do talk about how we are doing, try just to listen and to accept what are some very strong emotions. Remember there is nothing you can do to bring our child back. Similarly there’s nothing you can do to fix our grief. We know how painful, how awkward and how helpless this could make you feel, but if you can hold onto those feelings and stay with us, silently if necessary, but always without judgement, then we will know how much you really do care. 8. Think before you speak Oh yes this is so important. Finding the words to describe our loss is hard for us too. In a way it’s better to remain silent rather than come out with inane platitudes. Frankly our child might not be ‘in a better place’, and it matters not that we may have other children to care for. Neither are we about to start making another one as a replacement. We know you mean well, but please don’t say you understand unless you really do. We don’t need you to interpret our grief or to advise us of a better way to grieve. 9. Do some research on child loss and parental grief There is a wealth of literature available on how bereaved parents adapt and survive after the death of a child. In the UK, The Compassionate Friends is a good resource. Of particular interest for this writer is concept of ‘continuing bonds’ and our efforts to maintain a meaningful relationship with the deceased. For us this is a more healthy approach to grief supplanting as it does older ideas about ‘finding closure’ or ‘moving on’ 10. Grief can be a period of growth – there are benefits from grieving. Grief is not all doom and gloom. And there is much to be learnt from our grief even, but perhaps more, from the grief parents will experience after the death of a child. We all suffer – at some point in our lives we will all face tragedy and turmoil of one kind or another. Bereaved parents have been broken and inevitably that forces us to look at life anew and to change –mostly we think for the better. Authors: Jane and Jimmy (April 2018) Care for the Family Bereaved Parent Support We've found the advice and support offered by Care for the Family invaluable and have no hesitation in referring bereaved parents to their website. Please remember there is no need to feel ashamed about struggling deeply. You didn’t choose this, and there are people in the CFF befriending team who will do their best to understand and support you, whilst being aware that there are no quick and easy answers. To find out more about the support CFF offer, please visit www.careforthefamily.org.uk/bps or call Care for the Family on 029 2081 0800. Other charities that can help in circumstances where you have lost a child include; Aching Arms A baby loss charity Child Bereavement UK A charity that supports children as they grieve, and parents who have lost a child.