A parent would agree that the thought of losing a child is devastating. It’s an event most of us hope to never have to come to terms with.
Unfortunately for some parents, our worst nightmare is their reality.
The different stages of grieving
Firstly it’s important to know that the grieving process is as individual as the parent grieving. There is no set timeline, emotions or symptoms and each person will dealt with the loss differently.
The common stages of grief are:
- Denial: When something so devastating happens, a person’s mind may refuse to believe that this is happening to them.
- Anger: Even if there is no one to blame for your loss, you will need someone to blame. You will be angry with people around you, most often your spouse bears most of the brunt along with yourself. You may feel guilty about things that were out of your control.
- Depression: Coping with the loss of a child may seem like a monstrous and unachievable feat. The sadness and guilt will often engulf you, leading to depression.
- Acceptance: This is the final stage of grief, but by no mean does this mean that you will no longer grieve. At this stage you accept what has happened. Very often you will need closure at this stage.
Men and women deal with grief differently
When a woman falls pregnant, she bonds with her unborn child from the very first spark of life. A woman physically nurtures the growing baby in her belly. She feels the kicks, jabs and experiences the miracle that is life growing within her. Although it’s debated whether a pregnant woman is considered a mother, any woman who has been pregnant can tell you that is what she is. If the loss of the child is due to miscarriage the mother may be more effected than the father, as he had yet to hold or be near the baby. A woman who has lost a child may feel the strong urge to have another, not to replace that child but to continue being a mother.
When a man loses a child it is of course devastating. However, most men elect not to show their emotions in front of the grieving mother or family, as he is expected to be the rock that is able to support his partner. Very often the father will take on the at-hand tasks such as arranging the funeral, doing the chores around the house that his partner may not be able to do at this stage.
Differences between grief and depression
When grief becomes more than grieving it is classified as depression. Very often the symptoms are so similar it’s difficult to tell them apart. If your grief is getting worse over time chances are that you may be suffering with either complicated grief or depression.
After a period of time you should feel the emotions that you have experienced becoming less intense. However if this is not the case and you have been suffering for a prolonged time to the extent that you cannot resume your life, you may have complicated grief. The characteristics of complicated grief are the feelings of constant denial, mourning and your everyday life is consumed with thoughts of the deceased. In this state you may still believe that your loved one is still alive and search for that person in familiar places.
When depressed, you will feel empty and listless all the time. You will not experience any alleviation from these emotions. You will no feel happiness or joy, whereas in the grieving state you may have brief periods of positive emotions. It’s possible to diagnose and treat depression, therefore it’s very important for your well being to see a specialist should you suspect that you are depressed.
It’s always helpful to get involved with a support group who may deal with experiences similar to your own. Often the grieving parents will find comfort and advice from these groups. If you are not comfortable sharing with strangers, confide in friends and family. It is unhealthy to keep all of these emotions cooped up. In time, you may be the one to offer support and advice to other parents going through similar circumstances.