There are some moments in life where no words sound right. Bereaved parents share an unspeakable bond. Find us on Facebook @ SurvivingChildLoss15.
If you are reading this, chances are you or someone you know has been thrust into the club that no one wants to join — the club no one wished existed. And yet here you are. And while you might feel overwhelmed and alone at this point in your grief journey, know that others have gone before you and walked a similar path.
It is from the experiences of other grieving parents that PFWBS has compiled suggestions that hopefully will provide some assistance as you face the all too real nightmare of planning a child’s funeral. Click here to read more.
According to studies, parents often experience more physical symptoms and more extreme emotions over losing a child than people grieving other types of losses.
Grief can manifest itself in physical ways. You may be unable to sleep or eat or you may sleep constantly or eat constantly. Many parents report feeling tired, walking around in a fog or daze, long and short term memory loss, an inability to concentrate or to make decisions.
Lack of sleep must be addressed. There are herbal supplements such as melatonin that you can take to help you sleep. However, in some cases, you may need a prescription-strength sleep aid for a short period of time. For parents who are not on any antidepressant medication or who feel they do not need it, St. John’s Wort was tested by Consumer Report Magazine and found to be the best herbal supplement for stress, grief, depression, and menopause.
Grief is a form of stress and affects your body like any other stress. Eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water, walking, and light exercise can help. Exercise produces endorphins your body needs to elevate your mood.
It is especially important to avoid the abuse of drugs and alcohol in hopes of making the pain go away. Prescription medication should be taken sparingly and only under the supervision of a physician. Many substances are addictive and may lead to a chemical dependence that stops or delays the necessary grieving process. It’s best to deal with it now so you don’t have to go through it later or make the process last longer. Grief changes and working on your grief can help you move forward naturally.
Guilt and regret are common emotions of grief. Many bereaved parents feel that if only they would have done or said something different, the death might not have occurred. By openly sharing your feelings of guilt and regret with others who understand your loss, you may come to a place where you can forgive yourself or come to an understanding that you could not have prevented your child’s death.
Despair and loneliness are common emotions of grief. You may still feel alone even when you are with a group of people. Few people can truly understand how deeply a bereaved parent hurts unless they have experienced a similar loss. People usually understand grief to the level they have experienced it. Finding support from others who have experienced a similar loss can help.
Anger is a common emotion in grief. Anger is often aimed at a person that is believed to have caused the death, at others who cannot understand your feelings, at God and sometimes at the child who died. Anger is not always expressed in negative ways. Many bereaved parents direct their anger in positive ways, by working to change laws, build foundations, raise money, fund scholarships, and find other avenues as a catalyst for positive change.
A wish to join your child who died is a normal and natural reaction to the pain you are experiencing. If these feelings become overwhelming and you begin to consider taking action, it is imperative that you seek professional support immediately.
What grief stage am I in? Throw out the old way of thinking that grief occurs in “stages.” One day you might be angry, while the next day you feel sad. It is possible to go from one extreme to the other every day. Each person’s experience of grief is different.
Will this pain ever end? Is there hope? Yes. Will you feel joy again? Yes. You will. Grief changes just like life changes. Grief won’t always be the way it is now; therefore, you won’t always feel as raw as you do now. You will get stronger. You will learn how to cope without your child here on this earth. You will smile again. You will laugh again. The sun will shine in your life and when it does, don’t feel guilty. Laughing, smiling or not having the thought of your child is YOU healing. That is a very good thing, something your child would be very happy about.
Make no mistake, if your marriage is falling apart, chances are it would have fallen apart regardless of your loss. The statistic of 90% of marriages ending in divorce after the loss of a child is a myth. Compassionate friends did their own study and found that 16% of marriages end in divorce after loss. https://www.compassionatefriends.org/pdf/When_a_Child_Dies-2006_Final.pdf
Tips that keep a marriage strong during child loss
- Don’t blame each other
- Allow your spouse to grieve their own way
- Don’t look for support from each other; that will come when you both get stronger
- Don’t make any major decisions for 6 months unless it’s absolutely vital
- Allow each other to be selfish. Everyone needs to be selfish sometimes with their needs.
- Know that your spouse is the only person who completely understands your loss
- Give each other space when you need it
- Make love as often as possible, it helps relieve stress and bond you.
- Don’t force your spouse to talk if they say it’s too painful. Find a friend, family member, or counselor to talk to.
- Don’t place large expectations on your spouse
- Seek to rebuild your relationship when you both feel stronger.
Know that your marriage will not always be the way it is, it too has cycles.
Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy as they share many symptoms, but there are ways to tell the difference. Remember, grief can be a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.
Symptoms of depression are:
- Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
- Thoughts of suicide
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Slow speech and body movements
- Inability to function at work, home and school
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Feeling numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
- Having difficulty trusting others since your loss
If you recognize any of the above symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, talk to a mental health professional right away. Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. But treatment can help you get better.
Crisis Text Hotline. TEXT “GO” TO 741741
Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
National Institute of Mental Health 1-888-ANXIETY (1-888-269-4389)
National Mental Health Association 1-800-969-664
Panic Disorder Information Hotline 800-64-PANIC
When friends lose the most precious thing in life, there may be no words to help them heal. What does help is doing things with them or for them. Here is a list of ideas you can do to help a grieving friend.
- Say, “Your child will never be forgotten.”
- Sit with them while they cry.
- Purchase a star in the child’s name.
- Buy surviving children something.
- Take the surviving children out to eat or to the park.
- Go for a walk with your friend.
- Speak openly about the child. Mention their name.
- Purchase a park bench with a plaque in the child’s name.
- Buy the parent chocolate or other treats.
- Buy a locket and place a photo of the child in the locket.
- Celebrate the deceased child’s birthday with the parents.
- Bring flowers or balloons to the grave.
- Attend a support group with your friend.
- Be available when your friend calls.
- Have a quilt made of the child’s old clothes.
- Donate or volunteer to a charity in memory of the child.
- Personalized Christmas ornaments.
- Telling them to take things breath by breath instead of day by day.
- Buy them a bracelet with charms that represent the child.
- Bring dinner or give gift cards to restaurants.
- Do your friend’s laundry.
- Clean your friend’s house.
- Take them out after 6 months have passed.
- Hug them.
Kid’s grief is often overlooked during tragedy. Parents typically are so overwhelmed with their own grief that children silently cope alone. Many times, children tend to not talk about their grief in order to protect the parents from pain.
Children learn how to express grief by observing their parents’ mourning process. Therefore, it is important that parents acknowledge their child’s death, display appropriate emotions, and give their surviving children permission to do so as well. While you should not be afraid to show an appropriate level of emotion in front of and with your surviving children, you need to reassure them that although you are grieving, you will still be able to take care of them. If they can see the extent of your grief, this will confirm their own feelings, that it is okay for them to cry, be sad, show anger, and even laugh.
Check out these DIY scream boxes. These are perfect for kids and parents to scream their hearts out when they feel the need to. It’s a craft you can do together and have fun all at the same time: http://www.griefspeaks.com/id67.html
Parenting after Loss – Handing Fear and Anxiety: http://stillstandingmag.com/2014/06/parenting-loss-handling-fear-anxiety/
We have gathered as many resources we could think of to help you in your time of need. Please feel free to contact us (email link) for more information.
Parents for Window Blind Safety has a private support group on Facebook for parents and grandparents only. https://www.facebook.com/groups/inthearms/
We also host another support group called Surviving Child Loss on Facebook open to the public.
Here are additional resources for grief and support groups:
- Have you experienced the death of your spouse? Do you wish you had more support?
- A wonderful resource for siblings of all ages with practical and down-to-earth explanations. Also, a great resource for parents to better understand what siblings of all ages go through. Director, P. Gill White, Ph.D.
- Pattie Welek Hall is a bereaved mother and the author of the book Believe which also comes in a Spanish version entitled Creer.
- A Hole in My Heart Ministry, Inc. …turning Moments in Memories after the loss of a child. Bereaved Mothers Faith Based Support Group
- The Erika Whitmore Godwin Foundation & griefHaven Palisades, CA 90272-3628 www.griefhaven.org
- AARP ~ Grief and Loss
- Angels in Heaven
- Children and Grief
- Compassionate Friends – National Org.
- Crisis, Grief and Healing
- General Grief Groups Listed
- Grief, Loss and Recovery
- Grief Recovery ~ The Action Program for
moving beyond loss.
- Our House – Los Angeles Area
- The Shiva Foundation
- Terminal Illness
- The Wellness Community – Los Angeles Area
- Locate Mental Health Service Providers
- How to Get Help
- Guide to Addiction Prevention for Seniors
- Building Self-Esteem
- Art Therapy & Mental Health
- Health Insurance and Mental Health Services
- Medicare and Mental Health: What’s Covered, What’s Not?
Bereaved Parents of the USA (BP/USA)
BP/USA is a non-profit, completely volunteer support organization for families (parents, siblings & grandparents) who have lost a child. Email: BPWindsofHealing@aol.com.
*griefHaven loves this organization
Connecting Our Paths Eternally
A grief and healing organization dedicated to helping parents and families living with the loss of a child
COPEline: 516 364-COPE (2673)
Valley of Life was established as an online memorial site where families and friends can memorialize their loved ones forever. Valley of Life has become a premiere resource for funeral planning, grief support and bereavement resources. The site offers an online funeral notice service, customized photo albums, and personalized online memorials for users. http://www.ValleyofLife.com
American Association of Suicidology
Dedicated to the Understanding and Prevention of Suicide
Suite 310, 4201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 Phone: (202) 237.2280
Since 1968, this nonprofit organization has helped family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. Find survivor support groups, peer counseling, and other services.
The Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation — because kids can’t fight cancer alone!
7910 Woodmont Ave, Suite 460, Bethesda MD 20814 Phone: (301) 657.8401
This group was founded more than a quarter of a century ago to provide advocacy, support, and information for families and survivors of childhood cancer. It is the largest and oldest pediatric cancer organization in the country.
The Compassionate Friends, Inc. — that their light may always shine.
PO Box 1347, Oak Brook, IL 60521 Phone: (877)-969-0010 or (630)-990-0010
The Compassionate Friends is a nationwide mutual self-help bereavement organization offering friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved families that have experienced the death of a child at any age from any cause. TCF/USA has nearly 600 chapters with locations in all 50 United States plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico.
The Erika Whitmore Godwin Foundation & griefHaven — “Providing hope & support for parents & others”
15332 Antioch Street, #147 Pacific Palisades, CA 90272-3628
The Eternal Candle.
Offers a free online memorial service which allows you to commemorate and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed on from this world.
Healing A Grieving Heart
An online radio show dedicated to helping people with their grief. All you have to do is click on the link and follow the instructions to listen live to the show. This is a wonderful way to pass time when you need hope.
Learning to embrace grief and draw new strength and meaning from it.
Lotsa Helping Hands
365 Boston Post Road, Suite 157, Sudbury, MA 01776
Lotsa Helping Hands is a simple, immediate way for friends, family, colleagues and neighbors to help loved ones in need. Its easy-to-use private group calendar organizes help such as meal delivery, rides, and other tasks that can be challenging to manage during times of medical crisis, end-of-life caring, or family caregiver exhaustion. It is also a place to keep these ‘circles of community’ informed with status updates, photo galleries, message boards and more.
MADD Mothers Against Drunk Driving — making a difference for more than 20 years
PO Box 541688, Dallas, TX 75354-1688 Phone: 800.GET-MADD (800) 438.6233
Fathers as well as mothers from all over the country join together in this well-known nonprofit organization to find solace when a child is killed by a drunk driver.
Offering encouragement, comfort and support to children enduring a time of profound emotional, physical or financial distress and provides opportunities for enhancing overall wellness, stability and quality of life.
AIDS Answers — is a great site that contains lots of valuable information on HIV/AIDS, misconceptions about them and plenty more. Ed Wolf is the expert for the site. Ed has developed HIV-related curricula and training for a large number of national and international organizations and institutions, including the California State Office of AIDS, the Shanti Project of San Francisco, UCSF AIDS Health Project and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles.
National SIDS Resource Center —
8201 Greensboro Drive, Ste 600, McLean, VA 22102 Phone: (703) 821.8955
This group offers a wide variety of publications and support for those who have suffered loss due to SIDS.
Parents of Murdered Children — for the families and friends of those who have died by violence
100 East Eighth Street, Suite B-41, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 Phone: (513) 721.5683
Following the murder of their daughter Lisa, Charlotte and Bob Hullinger launched this nonprofit group in 1978. Support groups are available around the country, as well as legal advice, a newsletter, grief support weekends, and other services.
Ped AIDS Foundation —
1311 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404 Phone: (310) 395.9051
While primarily focused on fund-raising for AIDS research, this group also provides bilingual education and information material, including video tapes for parents of children with AIDS. This foundation also serves as a referral agency for parents who wish to connect with other parents.
Pregnancy & Infant Loss Center —
1415 E. Wayzata Blvd. Wayzata, MN 55391 Phone: (612) 473.9372
Along with a parent-to-parent outreach program, PILC offers educational materials, a newsletter, and information on counseling services. PILC can also connect parents with national and international support groups.
RTS Bereavement Services — to provide dignified, respectful, and compassionate bereavement care for patients and families.
1910 S. Avenue, La Crosse, WI 54601 Phone: (608) 785.0530 ex.4747
This organization provides information on local and national support groups for families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.
SIDS Alliance ~~ National SIDS foundation
1314 Bradford Avenue Baltimore MD 21208 Phone: (800) 221.SIDS
Parents who have lost a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can obtain information, counseling, and referrals through this foundation. Literature, films, and community education packets are also available on SIDS, infant death, and apnea.
On this blog you’ll find a large assortment of grief helps: ideas and suggestions, words and images, mini-books and mini-videos. All of these are designed solely with grieving people in mind. And every resource offered here is absolutely free..- http://griefhelps.com
In Loving Memory
The purpose of In Loving Memory is to provide conferences for bereaved parents who are now childless, where they find encouragement and solace from the profound grief caused by the death of their child.