Many people would agree that there is nothing as heart-wrenching as losing a child. July is International Bereaved Parents Month, a time to support friends or loved ones who have lost a child. Whether the loss was recent or decades ago, the pain experienced by parents who have lost a child never fully goes away. Many families find ways to honor the child they have lost, such as through foundations and scholarships. Those endeavors often help the family members cope as well as leave a legacy for themselves and their child.
Child Deaths Touch Many Lives
It’s estimated that, in the United States, about 50,000 children die due to vehicle or other accidents, suicide, violence, or illness. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), people who have lost a child experience a variety of physical and emotional issues, including severe depression, mortality due to illness or suicide, and failed marriages.
True Care has been touched by child deaths in recent years. Our patient resources director had a friend who lost a daughter due to a drunk driver, and our nurse manager lost a son in a drowning accident. Support for grieving parents by other family members and by friends is necessary, providing emotional support as well as helping them engage in rewarding activities that offer a sense a meaning. Sometimes, though, bereaved parents can be trapped for years in the memories of their children, and counseling may be necessary.
There are five universal stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. People spend different amounts of time working through these steps and express different levels of intensity at each stage. Because of that individuality as well as the universality of the stages, there are many and varied options to speak with counselors and other people going through something similar, providing the outlet many need to help deal with their grief.
According to experts at Web MD, “The stages of grief reflect a variety of reactions that may surface as an individual tries to make sense of how a loss affects him or her. An important part of the healing process is allowing oneself to experience and accept all feelings that are experienced.”
People don’t always progress the grief stages in direct order – they often waffle back and forth, and sometimes when you think you are doing well, you get tsunamied by a tidal wave of grief that sends you back to the raw pain of loss again. Grief can be, and often is, very complicated.
Where to Find Help?
Our caring community has a variety of organizations, agencies, and professionals who can help individuals, families, and couples dealing with grief. For example, Central Wyoming Hospice offers Bereavement Groups as well as a Grief Camp for kids. Also, The Healing Place is a counseling ministry for individuals, couples, and families available at Highlight Park Community Church (HPCC). Additionally, a Grief Share class is often held through HPCC and The Healing Place.
Two national organizations may also be of help: Bereaved Parents USA and The Compassionate Friends. Each of these groups can help grieving parents and other family members during a time of loss and thereafter through support, understanding, encouragement, and hope. Search for local chapters of these organizations on their respective websites.
There is also an online grief support group where people can talk to other parents going through the same hardships and struggles. Visit http://forums.grieving.com.
If you are grieving the loss of a child or loved one, don’t be afraid to seek help, to talk to people who understand and relate to what you’re going through. And, if you know someone who has lost a child or loved one, take time during this special month, Bereaved Parents Month, to encourage, support, and help any way you can.