Child loss affects many people. While the parents are usually the most impacted, family, friends, and caregivers certainly feel the weight of the loss as well. We want you to know that even though you are not the parent, it’s ok for you to be grieving as a family member or friend. In fact, it’s completely normal!
You may be grieving the relationship that you had or didn’t get to have with that child. You may be grieving because the parents are your family members or close friends and you are heartbroken for them. You may be grieving as a grandparent because you lost your grandchild and feel like there is nothing you can do for your child. You may be grieving because you somehow feel responsible for the child’s death. You may be grieving because you have children that were friends of the child and they will no longer be able to grow up together. No matter the reason, you are grieving the loss of that child and the love you had for them.
Every person grieves differently, even within a marriage. Some find the need to keep busy, others can’t find the energy to do very much at all. Some want to talk about the child or the circumstances surrounding their death, while others don’t want to talk about it at all. Often, a person’s style of grieving changes throughout time. Do whatever feels comfortable to you and take it one day at a time.
If you need or want to talk about the loss, do so! When it comes to talking about the child, we have found that most parents embrace it and love having conversations about past experiences with their children. They want their children to be included. However, in regards to the circumstances surrounding the child’s death or your own grief, it may be best to talk to another family member, friend, or a professional, rather than the parents. The parents have a lot going on emotionally and may not want to or be able to handle anyone else’s grief. Be mindful of this and follow their cues on whether they would like to talk about the child’s death or your grief. Seek out a therapist, support group, or others who are going through something similar so you can share your experiences and grief through another outlet. You can check out our support group page for groups and/or organizations that may appeal to you.
Don’t take things personally from the parents and try to give them grace. They are going through a lot and don’t always realize that they may say something that could be construed to be offensive or impolite. They may not return calls or texts right away or may be short with you. They may not want to see anybody for a period of time. They may have a hard time seeing your family or going to family holidays and events, especially if there are children there around the same age as the child they lost. It has nothing to do with you and is almost never intentional. Everyone grieves at a different pace, so there is no timeline for when the parents will be back to “normal”. They are taking things day by day and some days are better than others.
Know that there will be triggers and that these are different for everyone. Triggers may come in the form of seeing other children, hearing about death in the news or on a tv show or movie, or seeing something that reminds you of the child. When you find yourself in a situation where something is causing your grief to intensify, you may want to try to remove yourself from that situation until you feel you are better able to handle it. That may mean moving to a different checkout lane in the grocery store so you aren’t behind a child the same age as the one you lost. It may mean putting your favorite television show on hold until you can stand to see babies again. Or, it may mean taking a break from certain activities or events.
You may find yourself worrying about losing your own children, especially if they are within the same age range as the child who passed away. This is completely normal. Children are not supposed to die before their parents and you have just realized that life does not always follow the path we believe it should. If you find yourself constantly worrying about your children, it may be a good time to seek out a therapist or friend who you can talk to.
We encourage you to explore other resources found on this site and our blog since many of the resources and topics for parents may be helpful to you as well, or at the very least, they may help give you more insight into what the parents are experiencing.