Five Complex Questions Bereaved Parents Ask
Finding meaning and purpose in life after the death of a child
The death of a child is one of the most devastating and confusing experiences a parent can face, and it's common for bereaved parents to have many complex questions and uncertainties about the future.
There are many questions that will go through the mind of bereaved parents but today I wanted to share five complex questions that many bereaved parents ask or ruminate in their minds.
1) Why did this happen to my child?
Bereaved parents often struggle to understand why their child had to die. You may feel like you need to find a reason or a meaning behind your child's death, but sometimes there is no clear answer or reason. Even when the cause of death is known and there is a logical explanation, emotionally you may still find it hard to make sense of your child’s death.
Many bereaved parents in trying to understand why their child died, struggle with feelings of guilt and regret with regard to what they could have done to prevent it or the relationship with their child. This can be a difficult and complex emotion to navigate. It's important for you to understand that it's normal to have these feelings, but that it's not necessarily productive to dwell on them.
You may find it helpful to focus on the positive things you did for your child, rather than the things you wish you had done or said differently. Remembering the love and care you provided to your child can be a source of comfort and strength during the grieving process.
It's often helpful to talk about these feelings of guilt and regret with a grief specialist or therapist who can help you process the guilt and regret and work through them in a healthy way.
2) Will I ever feel normal again?
Grief is a complex and individual process, and it's common for bereaved parents to feel like they'll never be able to move forward or feel "normal" or happy again. It's important to remember that everyone's grief journey is different and there's no right or wrong way to feel.
Life as you knew it will never be the same again, so finding moments of joy and hope can be an important part of the healing process. As you progress in your journey you will begin to embrace your new “normal” filled with joy and happiness alongside your grief. Joy and grief can coexist.
3) How do I navigate relationships with family and friends who don't understand my grief?
It's not uncommon for bereaved parents to feel isolated and unsupported by family and friends who don't fully understand their grief.
There is a potential to be labelled by others as moody or ungrateful. It is also possible that some friends and family members avoid you because they feel uncomfortable with your tears or because you constantly talk about your pain or loss. Your family and friends may not understand your pain and expect you to be over the pain a few months later.
Do not feel pressured to pretend you are feeling better when you are not as there is no time frame to grief. You might need to stay away from some friends and even family members who trigger you the wrong way as you navigate your bereavement journey. That said, do not isolate yourself but surround yourself with people who are supportive, will listen to you without judgement and are there for you emotionally and practically. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
This may be hard to do but extend grace to those who do not understand what you are going through and may sometimes give unhelpful advice or comments. This journey you are on is also new for them.
4) How do I deal with the impact of trauma on my mental and physical health?
The experience of losing a child can be deeply traumatic, and bereaved parents may struggle with physical and mental health issues as a result. This can be a complex issue to address, and it's important for parents to prioritise their own self-care and seek out professional support as needed.
Give yourself grace and take time out to take care of yourself. It is important that you prioritise the care of your spiritual, mental and physical health. Write or note a list of what brings you joy and do them. It could be taking a walk, reading, taking a long bath, hanging out with your spouse or a friend, dancing or going for a support weekend retreat for bereaved parents. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or complicated. Keep it simple. Also, allow others to take care of you during this time.
It is so easy to live in the past with regrets or worry about the future which can affect your mental and physical well-being. When you find your mind straying, breathe and notice what is happening in the present moment, experiencing emotions as they happen then letting them go in order to move to the next one.
5) How do I find meaning and purpose in life after my child's death?
Bereaved parents may struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives after the death of their child, and may question the purpose of life altogether. This can be a deeply complex and emotional issue to work through.
To find meaning and purpose in life after the death of a child, it is important that you first work through any feelings of anger, resentment, or blame related to your child's death.
Explore forgiveness practices or seek out support from a grief specialist, therapist or spiritual leader who can guide you through a forgiveness process towards yourself or anyone involved with your child’s death including hospital negligence, a drunk driver etc.
Another way is to explore avenues to honour your child's memory. This may involve creating a memorial, starting a charity in your child's name, or participating in events that support causes that were important to your child.
Lastly, seeking out other bereaved parents on their journey, sharing experiences, and listening to others can bring some comfort as you collectively navigate the bereavement journey with other parents who understand what it means to experience child loss.
Detola Amure is a grief and loss specialist. She is also the founder of My Little Warrior Child, a foundation set up in memory of her 7-month-old son Morakinyo Caleb who died unexpectantly in 2018. She knows first-hand how difficult life can be following a bereavement of a child. Join her and her team from July 7 - July 9 at the next My Little Warrior Child support weekend retreat for bereaved parents. It's free to attend and all the information can be found here.