Prior to losing my son in 2015, I didn’t even know there was a bereaved parent’s month. I’m glad you found us, though. Because many of us who subscribe to this tribe know this pain.
The sculpture above is called Melancholy by Albert György and it is on display in Geneva, Switzerland. It aptly captures the unfillable hole that is left when a parent loses a child.
I will say my hole felt that big at first. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel that big now. Time has softened the pain. But losing a child is not like other losses because it’s out of order. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. And it’s not something you get over but a process of learning to live without the one you love. I get a number of searches by parents looking up “want to kill myself after the death of my child.” As many as 1/3 of parents want to kill themselves after the loss of a child. That’s how devastating it is.
If you’ve lost a child, please, please, please get support. You can’t avoid this grief. And you can’t be scared of the pain but you can manage it and lessen your suffering.
The two most important things for grieving parents are:
1. Support – Find support resources here
Support because, after that memorial service, many of your usual friends and even some of your family will avoid you and leave you alone at first with the excuse that you must want to be alone. Never mind no one ever asked you what you wanted. They don’t want to imagine this loss, they feel your loss too much when you talk about it and they avoid you because they can’t fix this. That makes people uncomfortable. It’s agony watching someone you are close to hurt so much. And people are fearful of walking into a tragedy this big.
That’s why support is so crucial. You want to talk, need to talk or you will explode. Not having support can result in your resorting to unhealthy coping skills such as drinking too much or getting overly angry with children, not sleeping, and so on.
You need to level with family and friends and let them know what you need. Being abandoned can make you angry but keep in mind it’s not personal although you feel that way. (The coping strategies eBook below has worksheets to know how to sit with a friend and tell them what you need.)
2. Coping strategies
I used writing and running. That’s why there are thousands of posts on this blog since 2015. It’s how I worked through my anger, my hurt, resentment, sadness, and more.
I ran because I needed that physical pounding and sweat and by the end of a run, I would find a sense of peace. Most of the time. Not all the time. Starting out my whole body felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.
My husband went hiking by the river with our dog. Being outside in nature with the dog who was once owned by my son who died by suicide was how he managed. And he attended a group with me.
List or searching healthy coping strategies (link to the free eBook on coping strategies below). Identify negative ones. By relying on the negative ones you are actually prolonging your grief and making it worse. Let’s say you rely on drinking or eating too much. Is it better the next day? By avoiding or numbing your feelings with a substance you cheat yourself out of developing healthy coping strategies and you stay stuck in the rawest pain of grief. And who needs that right?
You can’t heal if you can’t feel. And there is no way to do this without emotional pain. That is part of the healing process.
30 thoughts on “July is Bereaved Parents Month”
A really Great book is “There is another life” Author Mattie Cody
Life after a loss of a child and copeing with grief.
Thank you Patrix
My wife (Leigh) and I lost our son, Mark, to an overdose on June 1st this year. Oh my, does your post hit home! We both have felt like we want to die, like there is no hope, how will we ever go on – and we both have used writing as a coping strategy – so spot on! Thank you so much for writing. We have been sharing our journey on blogs, and are considering a website for parents and family of those with a substance abuse disorder, pointing them to resources for their recovery. God bless!
Charles I am so sorry you lost a son to overdose. That is so recent so I know it’s raw. I would love to honor your son’s memory and share your story here and if you start a blog we can add that link to the bottom of the post. That will give you an initial boost in google where I am well established. Teamwork. Writing has been my go to. And a support group but this has become the support now. And I wrote a book die out in October. My publisher just uploaded the final manuscript for print today. Thank you for commenting. Here is the link to submit a story about your son. https://annemoss.com/contact-2/submit-a-story/
What an absolutely fitting sculpture for those like us. The hole in my soul shrinks and grows, even after what will be 18 years tomorrow. My sweet boy was 4 when he died. Grief is a finicky emotion…
It is such a perfect statue. Four years old. That is so young. Your sweet little boy.
We help each other by sharing our stories. This month is the 5th anniversary of losing my 25 year old son, Kenny, to suicide. I alternate between being numb and being so very very sad. Guilt, fear and a sense of failure plague me in my thoughts. I carry on, I look and act like a normal productive happy woman but I feel so empty inside. Hollow, invisible.
Thank you Renee for sharing how you really feel. We can do that here. The word suicide hit me so hard when the police officer told me I thought a freight train hit my chest. My son left a lot of writing the form of lyrics that helped me understand the why behind his suicide. I included them in my book coming out in the fall. I just think we need to talk more about it. Thank you again for commenting.
We lost our son Morgan at age 27, Dec. 18, 2018. Morgan died of DSRCT, a rare pediatric sarcoma. We had over 4 years of Morgan being in treatment, chemos, surgeries, clinical trials, and innumerable procedures. Our world changed forever the day he was diagnosed, and we grieved along the whole way.
I am working with an excellent grief counselor; otherwise I probably would not be getting out of bed each day. Most days, I make it. I will never get over losing Morgan. He was so strong, handsome, funny, intelligent. I keep going as much as I do now, for the sake of my husband and our other children. Lately, I am having anxiety that I will lose another of my children.
Best grief book: It’s OK that you are not OK. I keep re-reading parts of it. Helps with understanding a bit when other people avoid talking about Morgan, or avoid me.
Thank you so much Linda for sharing your story and your journey. That avoidance thing is really disturbing. I remember seeing people scatter at the grocery store to avoid me. So I often tell bereaved parents to share with a close friend how they want/need to be supported. Then that friend shares with others. That strategy works for a lot of the parents I speak with. Not all the time but they get more support which is what we need. I went to a support group. Two of them as a matter of fact. I could not figure out how I was going to survive my son’s suicide. I just kept telling myself I would. But it’s the hardest, most gut-wrenching loss to survive. Yours is still so raw. I promise it does soften over time and you are doing what you need to do to survive today. That is good enough right now. I appreciate your commenting
Hello my name is Jackie and a friend just sent me the link for your group. I lost my son 6 1/2 years ago. He was 32.
He left his daughter Laci who was only 2 at the time. His second child, a boy Liam had not been born yet. He was born 6 months after my son Kevin died. He was so excited because they were having a boy but he never got to see him. I feel blessed because he left me 2 of his children to help me forget the pain once in awhile. I see their daddy in them every day. I have custody of them because their mother got hooked on heroin and children’s services took them away from her. It will be 3 years in August since I have had them. I have legal custody of them. I thank God for that every day.
It’s not easy because sometimes it’s hard to discipline them. I want to be just Grandma like I used to. I know they are safe now. That’s what is most important. I am slowly learning to cope with my loss. I take it day by day. I am thankful when I wake up in the morning and get to enjoy life again for at least another day. It has taught me to live each day as it was my last because you never know what’s in store for tomorrow.
One day I had a son and the next day I didn’t. He was gone in an instant forever. Oh that is so final, so sad, so hard. The last time I saw my son I hugged him goodbye and told him that I loved him and he told me the same hugging me back. I do not believe the pain ever goes away. It is such a deep hurt that it won’t come up and go away. So I learn to cope. Not an easy task but here I go on and try my best to go on. This is what God handed me and it is up to me what I do with it. I just try my best to do what I can to get through each and every day.
With that being said I have to go to bed to hopefully get some sleep. Sometimes I can sleep and others I can’t. Thank you for listening and goodnight.
Jackie. Thank you for telling me (us) your story. I would love to have this be a post on the site but I will not do that if you do not approve. Either way you are welcome here to be joyful or sad whatever the day has brought you. How did your son die? I lost my son to suicide fours years ago. I doesn’t ever “go away” but now I do t want it to because that grief is my love for a child that is no longer with me in the way I expected. I am so glad you have those two children
Thankyou for this post Anne, I am yet to overcome the loss of my mother and I lost my FIL just a 2 months apart…I could not resist from commenting, it easier said than done that with time we forget and move on with our everyday life, everydayhealth . I think parents are just not replaceable how ever they maybe, I have been lucky to have wonder parents and PIL.
I don’t think we ever get over it. It changes us and we learn to live with the loss. But there is no fixing it. I am only now really learning to cherish memories but I still cry three years later and I always will have those moments. Now it’s my link to my loved one. The grief is. My only connection. So grief is connection and love.
Hi , I’m Janet! I’ve lost 2 children in this 1 life time of mine! Our daughter Amanda died of leukemia in 1995, today July 16 is her birthday and our son jus died on May 10 due to a motorcycle accident! Our world is jus shattered! As well as our hearts! I can see the good lord taking 1 child but 2, I have little faith left!
Oh Janet I’m so sorry. Lloyd lost two children, too. Same goes for my friend Joanna who lost both children and her husband died by hanging the day she lost her second son. Lloyd’s post is here: https://annemoss.com/2017/10/21/grief-loss-child-can-tear-family-apart/ If you wanted, I could ask him if he is willing to connect.
That is so devastating. Did your son die this year may 10? If so that is very recent and therefore your loss is still very raw. I understand how your world could be shattered. Let me ask you this, do you have support, or go to a support group? How can I help? If you want help finding a group, please tell me city and state. You would be at higher risk of suicide yourself so please take care of yourself.
And please tell us about your children. We want to hear about them.
Yes this may 10,2018, just 2 1/2 weeks before his death we lost my mom, his Grammy! No I’m doing a support group yet but I am looking into it! It’s still too soon, I went when we lost our daughter though, it did help! Now we only have our daughter Shannon left, she’s a recovering herion addict she s been clean for 2years n 4 months, she has a 3 year old boy and expecting her 2nd baby in February. I have no intentions of hurting myself, but thanks! Thanks for typing with me! My husband n I are going to order Nathan’s headstone today! 🙁☹️😢😢
Janet when and if you are ready you can write about all this one day. Too soon yet but so appreciate your sharing your story and how you are doing.
I miss my daughter every day. Istill get chocked up speaking her name. She was my everything.Life goes on but it is not the same.
You are right Judy. Life is not the same. How long ago did your daughter die? Tell me more about her. Her age, what she looked like. Here on Emotionally Naked, we want to hear all that. I do know how you feel. My life is not the same since Charles’ suicide. I’ve had a rough day today and it’s been three years now. But the grief has softened for me. The edges of my grief are not as sharp as they used to be.
Hey AM, where do I find the statistic for the 1/3 of parents? No one has ever told me that, and I thought I was worse than most.
Wonder if there’s a statistic for bereaved parents of only children?
I can’t find the 30% specifically. I learned it at the AFSP conference during one of the presentations. I will try to track that down. I don’t think there is a specific study on parents of only children but it would be a good study to conduct and figure out that risk factor. I know Logan was Tamara’s only child and it has impacted her in different ways because of that. This study does mention something related to that. https://jech.bmj.com/content/59/5/407
One in three persons with a previous psychiatric diagnosis experienced suicide, deliberate self-harm or psychiatric illness within the first year of bereavement.
“Your children are your legacy. They are your contribution to the future,” Loder tells WebMD. “If there is any grief that you live with for the rest of your life, it is the death of your child.”
Research from Denmark has shown that the loss of a child increases a parent’s own risk of dying, with the risk of death for mothers increasing fourfold in the first years following the event.Now the same research team is reporting that the risk of mental illness is much greater among parents who have lost a child. And once again the risk was greater for bereaved moms than dads.
Dying to Be Free – A Healing Guide for Families after a Suicide by Beverly Cobain and Jean Larch
Thank you Becky.
Ok that wasn’t your request. I have four books I bought very early. Chasing Death, Suicide Among Gifted Children, Autopsy of a Suicide and The Suicidal Mind.
Thank you so much for those books David. That’s a good list.
Wow. That’s an unbelievably accurate representation. Mine was that big continuously for 22 months then began to close some. A grief milestone. But during bday and deathday it opens all the way back up. It did that this past Friday for Daniel’s 3rd bday since he died. It’s just now today closing back down but I will always have a hole that fluctuates in size. During the in-between times I can more voluntarily open and close it more as time goes by.
Good analogy David. And I find that too. I stills struggle a lot with birthday and holidays.
Excellent book on grieving the loss of a child is Bearing the Unbearable. Can order on Amazon. Best book I have read on the subject of living with the grief. ..to honor your child and the endless unconditional love you have for him or her.
Fabulous title too. Thank you Tamara