Losing a child is hard for anyone. Whether your child died of an illness, an accident, or was a stillbirth you need to mourn, though often difficult it is important to learn how to deal with your feelings and continue your life. It is harder to lose a child than an adult relative or loved one because you wonder what they would have become and you get angry that they did not get a chance to live long. Follow this advice to help show you the healthiest ways to cope and the pitfalls to avoid.
- be supportive of the child’s mother and let her support you
- get therapy and join a support group
- understand the five stages of mourning
- get together with the family and reminisce
- let yourself feel good when it comes naturally
- neglect your other children
- burden your other children
- make a house rule that you don’t talk about the loss
- blame yourself, god, or anyone
- become cynical
Whether you are married and lost a child or separated and divorced, you need to support each other. You and the child’s mother are experiencing the same loss and you will each have your vulnerable moments. Use the fact that you are both mourning to foster empathy for her and hopefully she will have empathy for you.
Many men who have never shared feelings resist therapy. Understand that a skilled therapist can help you sort your feelings out and that it is healthy to share feelings. You may be angry that this happened to you and your child. A support group can help you see that others are struggling with a similar tragedy. Consequentially, you do not feel alone and are not the only victim. Churches are great places to go for support as you can talk to the clergy about the child and the afterlife.
There are five stages of mourning that people who have had a loss typically go through.
The first stage is denial. For most people, denial lasts for just a few days. When someone says that they are handling a loss well, then they are probably in denial. If you had a moment when you simply did not feel anything or don’t believe that you lost a child, you were in denial.
The second stage is anger. At this stage you feel cheated and get angry that your child did not have a chance at a full life. Sometimes you blame others for the death. For example, if your 4 year old died in the swimming pool when you were not there you blame the adults who were there and should have been watching. If your 17 year old was killed in an accident you blame them or the other drivers.
Stage three is bargaining. This stage is where you think of what your child may have grown up to be and how the death could have been prevented. At this stage you might talk to the child as if they were still around. Don’t think you are going insane if you do this. It is part of the bargaining stage.
The fourth stage is sadness. This is the stage we typically think of as morning. You often get depressed or have crying spells. “Big boys don’t cry” is an inappropriate expression. You need to express yourself to safe trusted people and feel your feelings.
Finally, stage 5 is acceptance. Although you are never going to be glad you lost your child, you accept that they are gone, and you can be happy that you had the child and remember the good times without sadness. Sometimes people who have had a loss do not want to stop feeling sad because they think it is the only way to stay connected with the lost loved one. The truth is that you still feel connected to your lost child when you remember the good times.
It helps everyone to get together, look at pictures and other memorabilia such as the child’s favorite toys that they had, and reminisce about the past. Even if one or all of you start crying, it is good for you to get together and talk about the good and the bad. Getting together with family can also help to just take your mind off of everything and enjoy yourself.
You do not have to be sad all of the time. When you feel good it is okay because you do not have to feel sad or angry all the time. Feel your natural feelings.
When a child dies you all need each other. If you neglect your other children they may feel that the deceased one was your favorite and it will make the loss of their sibling harder on them. Be grateful that you still have your living children and learn to cope with them. They will need your support just as much as you need theirs.
Sometimes a parent will cling to their other children for emotional support. Do not burden your children with the thoughts and feelings that you should be confessing to a therapist or clergy. Especially if your other children are young, they won’t know how to process all of their feelings anyway, and piling on your feelings will only confuse them more.
Some men avoid talking about their feelings and demand that the family does not talk about theirs. This is unhealthy for everyone and can lead to avoidance of other issues, overall stress and poor communication. Instead, encourage your other children to talk about their feelings of loss with you so that you can all process your feelings better.
Do not blame yourself, the mother, or anyone else. Blaming just makes you angry and can make you sick, and it does nothing to help you move on with your life. Blaming god can make you lose your religious faith and cut you off from major support you could get from your church community.
When you think of the unfairness of losing a child, you can generalize and see everything in life as unfair. This can lead to bad health and a lifetime of misery. Give yourself enough consideration to get help.
The loss of a child can be one of the most devastating experiences you can have. Although it is never easy to lose a child, there are things you can do to help yourself and your family deal with the loss. Consider finding a therapist to help you process your feelings.