The pain of losing a child is uniquely tender, and the experience finds a curious analogy in the world of Alice in Wonderland. Everything is turned on its head, nothing is ever quite as it used to be, and there seems to be nobody around to tell you what is going on, what to do, or what the future will hold.
There is no prescriptive plan for dealing with the loss of a child. Sadly, nobody is able to hand you a checklist of the correct responses, the timelines for grief, or a magic potion to help make everything ok.
There are, however, steps you can take to help you in the process; to provide some sort of scaffolding and support, and start rebuilding your life and long-term outlook in a new normal.
Share stories, gain support, strengthen remembrance
There is an old proverb that says a person can actually die two deaths. The first happens when your physical body dies; the second occurs when people stop mentioning your name.
When you say your child’s name, you keep their legacy vibrant and alive.
Our culture has a tendency to perpetuate the silence that springs up around death, especially when a child is involved. Well-meaning friends and family will skirt around the subject of your child’s death, avoid mentioning your child by name, or use euphemisms or awkward analogies.
Hearing phrases like “your child is in a better place” or “everything happens for a reason” probably don’t help you feel better, and in fact can bring about more pain or other intense emotions.
In truth, you are still a parent, and, like all parents, it is natural to want to talk about your child with others.
Though you have lost your child, their importance and presence within your life will never diminish. Avoiding the topic can be hugely detrimental to the grieving process, and to your overall mental health.
Talking about your loss, swapping anecdotes and memories, and using your child’s name out loud helps you keep the memory of your child alive.
In a time when everything seems bleak and helpless, these glimmers of joyful memories can be lifelines, helping to reinforce the notion that while you will never get over the loss of your child, you can survive it.
Further, with time and tenderness, you can experience moments of joy again, even as you move through the grief of losing your child.
Creating new traditions to honor your child establishes a place for them within your family, and helps provide comfort that they will never be forgotten or overlooked. They are as much a person, with their own name and identity, as any of your other family members.
Find hope by connecting with others
In the early days, hope can seem entirely impossible, and the focus is on getting through each moment at a time. Months and even years later, you will face difficult days. The idea of a brighter tomorrow may seem a painful cliche that will never come to fruition.
Hope is a crucial ingredient in the grief journey, and in the rebuilding of life for parents. Connecting with other parents facing similar circumstances can play a huge role in finding hope.
Seeing those who have survived an impossible situation can be inspiring and helps to demonstrate that as hard as it seems, life will go on, and you will be able to live more days with hope, while still remembering your loss.
At Faith’s Lodge, there is space, time, and gentle structure to foster connections with other grieving parents through activities like discussion groups, memorial crafts and projects, and self-care elements like massage and easy movement, as well as a tranquil surrounding in nature.
Every loss is unique
Ultimately, the loss of a child is something personal to each parent and is a very individual experience. There can be solace, however, in connecting with those in a similar situation.
Connecting with others who’ve lost a child provides the chance to learn from those who have survived their grief day by day, to slowly build a new life following their tragedy.
Other bereaved parents will have experienced the emotions you are going through, and those at different stages in the grieving process will be able to offer their own experience, wisdom, and strength.
Losing a child grants you membership to an exclusive club–one nobody ever asked to join. Connecting with others in a similar position can help, however.
They understand when you want to talk or when it is best to stay quiet because there is simply a mutual understanding. They can offer both emotional and practical support thanks to their unique perspective. Everyone ‘gets it’ – there is nothing to prove, no explanation required, and no judgement.
Connecting with those around you while engaging in therapeutic activity or calming practices also helps to add a sense of purpose. In any support group of parents who’ve suffered the most tragic loss, there will be people at many stages of an emotional journey.
You can also talk through solutions and strategies for carrying on, and staying present with other family members.
Feeling that you have the support of a group is a great way to hold yourself accountable for compassionate actions toward yourself and others, evaluate what does and doesn’t work for you, and build the strength to survive each day as it comes.
Talking is a crucial element of the healing process, and is essential to ensure you don’t feel alone or isolated – both natural reactions to a tragedy.
Realizing that there are others in your position can lend you strength. It’s essential to allow yourself to feel your feelings, sit with them, and carefully work through them, knowing that feelings are fluid and the intensity of your loss will ebb and flow over time.
Being honest about your emotions as your journey unfolds is essential for moving forward. And, doing so in a way that works for you, allows space and respite, and is free of judgement is key for many grieving parents. There is no “right” way to grieve.
Working with a group in a safe space can provide rest and recovery when you need it most. Sometimes you need a welcome relief, a lighthearted moment, and a reminder that there can be life after grief, and a world outside your pain.
When we find a bit of peace in a walk in nature, safe touch from a pair of calming hands, or the space to let out whatever wants to come, we gather strength for each day, no matter what it holds for us.
Moments of respite may allow you, over time, to see your loss in the fabric of your life, a permanent, precious part of what makes you you. And, you may find that as you care for yourself and allow others to care for you, you gain strength and hope to create the rest of your life story after loss.
Here at Faith’s Lodge, we are a safe place and a soft place to land. We offer a supportive, nurturing environment for bereaved parents, and provide the assistance, tools, and resources to help you work through your journey.
We help you connect with other parents, offer supportive programming, gain rest and respite from your pain and grief. We support you in your loss, help you find solace in gentle activity, nature, and space.
At Faith’s lodge, there’s no judgment, no explanation, just support and acceptance as you are today.
The connections you make at Faith’s Lodge last long past our weekend events. We create a safe container for friendships to form, so you have a community to call when you’re having a bad day.
Contact us today to learn about our programming, and register for upcoming events. We’ll be right here for you.