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The information on this page has been written by parents who have
been bereaved and reproduced by kind permission of The Child Death
Most people experience a whole range of different emotions;
initial feelings may include disbelief, numbness, anger, sadness,
guilt, emptiness, maybe even, in some instances, a sense of relief.
These feelings may be mixed up together.
It is very likely that if you have other children they will also
have equally strong feelings, and may need a trusted person or
friend in whom to confide. If your only child has died you may feel
a desperate and bitter sadness, that your parenthood is no longer
visible to others. Whether you have other children or not, if you
long for another baby, but pregnancy is not possible, or does not
occur, this can be an added grief.
Some parents will need to talk about the child's death over
again for many months. Some parents will not want to talk about it
at all and will wish to try and 'divert' their feelings, some of
the time, into work and hobbies, sometimes to an obsessive
It is very common for partners only to have energy for their own
grief and be temporarily unable to help each other. This can cause
great difficulty, and you may have to acknowledge together that you
are expressing your grief in different ways, and respect each
other's need to find support in your individual ways.
Having someone listen to the way you feel is almost always
helpful. Try not to be afraid to ask for help, outside the family
if necessary, especially if you feel that your need to talk is a
further 'burden' on relatives and friends. Talking to someone you
met perhaps at the hospital may be helpful, or you may find support
through the hospital social work department, your GP or health
visitor, or child's teacher.
You can talk to a local hospice even if your child didn't die at
the hospice. There are also specialist voluntary groups and
organisations for families whose child has died in particular
circumstances. There may also be groups of parents, perhaps in your
area, who meet through such organisations to share experience and
The numbness you felt initially will pass in time, but feelings
of occasional disbelief, terrible sadness, anger, guilt and
emptiness may remain very powerful. Many bereaved parents mention
Don't be afraid to ask for help; talk to someone you trust about
the way you feel.
First anniversaries and anticipating anniversaries will be very
hard, and unexpected and poignant feelings and reactions may take
you by surprise. Think about how you want to approach these dates.
It can be helpful to make a plan and agree how you will remember
your son or daughter.
Some people, while meaning well, may say very clumsy things.
They do not mean to hurt you further, but they can have no idea of
the depth of your grief. They may, very tactlessly, try to find
something 'positive' to advise, such as focusing attention on other
children you may have, or by using unhelpful clichés.
Tell them how you want them to react. If you want them to talk
about your child, and to use his or her name, tell them.
Siblings' needs over months and years to talk about their
brother or sister, and what happened, will change as they mature.
You may find that much basic information is required, perhaps over
and over again. Any child born into your family in the future
should know about his or her brother or sister and be given the
opportunity to ask and talk about him or her.