Grieving the Death of a Child

Give yourself permission to grieve at your own pace.
By Chris Ownby
May 28, 2021

First of all, I’m truly sorry. If you’ve lost a child, my heart goes out to you. I hope these words will bring some kind of comfort or hope as you’re grieving the death of your child.

It’s hard enough to try and understand death and grief. But when it comes to your own child passing away… things make no sense. It’s the loss that should never have happened.

You might feel unnameable, indescribable pain, numbness, and shock right now. No words seem to do it justice. And I want you to know that you’re not alone in having this no-named feeling. 

Many — perhaps too many — know what it is to lose a child. And yet, no two people grieve the same way. Nobody quite feels the loss like you because no one has lost exactly what you have lost. Grief isn’t as cut and dried as some might think. There is no “normal” way to grieve, and there’s no rhyme nor reason to when or how you feel, how intense the feelings are, or how long feelings last. 

Here’s my point: Give yourself permission and grace to grieve at your own pace. Don’t beat yourself up for what’s going on inside you, for waking another day to pain that still hasn’t gone away. For forgetting everyday little things because the shock is still setting in. Or for the tears that show up at the most unexpected moments. 

I know, you’re not ok… but it’s ok to feel these things as you grieve the death of your child. 

Grief is necessary. This may sound insensitive, but please know that I don’t mean it that way at all.

What I do mean is, the process of grief serves a purpose. It’s a hard, painful process, no doubt about it. Your brain, emotions, and body are trying to bring about some sort of sense, balance, and equilibrium when a huge part of your life has been taken away from you. And weirdly enough, the pain is part of the healing. It all feels like chaos, bottomless sadness, loss of control, and possibly even hope. Over time, the grief process helps you work through your heavy loss while trying to back into the function of life, however that may look. 

I’d love to tell you to trust the process of grieving the death of a child. I know when I’ve lost someone, the last thing I’ve wanted to do was trust anything that looked hopeful. And I can’t imagine how that feels for you at the moment. Maybe in those very few, short lucid moments, notice where that process is taking you. 

When you’re in the middle of it, grief seems like it will never go away, and there’s some truth to that.

Over time, the intense emotions should dampen. But working through the loss of your child will be with you for as long as you live. That’s because your child will always be a part of who you are; death does not erase the fact that you are still their parent. At some point, life will return to some kind of order, but the memories of your child and your love for them will always be alive. 

Let me try to encourage you with this: in working through the painful process of grief, you do have some control. Control may be the last thing you feel like you have right now. You might be asking, How can I control not breaking down? The physical pain I feel in my chest, my head, my limbs? My inability to sleep? My utter loss of motivation to want to do anything anymore? 

These kinds of responses are often out of your control. But with every day that goes by, you can take a small step forward.

It may start with stepping out of the house. Maybe taking a short walk. Allowing yourself to experience moments of laughter or pleasure. Or even reaching out when you need someone to be there. My encouragement is to take short steps each day. 

The grief you’re feeling can’t be put into words, and it certainly can’t be contained in the confines of this short article. But please, hang in there. Your loss is tremendous, and your life is forever changed. You will be forever changed. Give yourself grace to feel what you feel, and reach out for the help you need. You will get through this. 

Other helpful blogs:

6 Things You Need to Know About Grief

How to Help Your Child Deal With Grief

Grieving Infertility and Miscarriages

How To Help Your Spouse As They Grieve

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