Life without my child

After your child dies, your life will be very different. You will have more free time if you are not caring for a sick child, but the time you do have may feel very empty. 

Life Without My Child
Living with the memory of your child

You will likely have many different feelings. It’s natural to feel numb or shocked at first, even if the death was expected. Your relationships may change and you may even feel that nothing makes sense anymore. As the days pass, you may feel sad, depressed, confused, relieved, angry, or guilty or something different. It’s hard to know what to do after your child dies. 

You may feel more alone than you have in a long time. You won’t see your child’s healthcare team or other families you met at the hospital. You may also lose touch with your child’s friends, classmates, and their families. The change in these relationships feels like another kind of loss.

If you can:

  • Take care of yourself and your family. Rest. Eat healthy meals. Go for walks or do some exercise.
  • Consider taking time away from work. Many employers offer bereavement leave. You may want to go to work to try to forget, but you may find it hard to concentrate. You may find that strong feelings come up when you don’t expect them. Some parents find it helpful and therapeutic to go back to work. Do what feels right for you.
  • Be gentle with your partner and other children. Everyone feels grief in different ways at different times. On some days, one person will be upset when another is feeling better. That’s natural.
  • Ask for and accept help from friends and family. They can bring meals, care for pets, do errands, or care for your other children to give you time to rest and heal.
  • Talk about and find ways to express feelings. It’s tempting to avoid strong feelings, but that usually makes them more confusing and overwhelming. It’s hard, but if you pay attention to how you feel and find a way to let those feelings out, you will start to heal from your grief.
  • Remember your child. Memories cause happy and sad feelings. Take time to make a collection of your child’s belongings or things your child created. Make a memory box, album of photos or video. Share memories with your family and friends. Over time, the happy memories may offer some comfort.
  • Reach out to your child’s healthcare team and your child’s friends and classmates, if only to say good-bye. They will also feel the loss of your child. Your child’s close friends may want to continue connecting with you and your family.
  • Take part in a spiritual or religious practice if you have one. If you feel angry, that’s natural. Talk to your spiritual or religious advisor about your feelings.
  • Find support. Talk to someone who lets you share your feelings. Find a friend, family member, another parent whose child died, a spiritual advisor, counsellor or support group. 

Grief is natural and it is hard work. It’s not an event that has a clear end point. It’s an individual process that takes a different amount of time for each person. You will never “get over” your child’s death. You will find that the pain of your grief ebbs and flows, often easing over time. You will never be the same but you will find a new way of living with the memory of your child.

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