Adult Grief After a Traumatic Death

The loss of your child may feel like the loss of your future. Parents remain forever concerned about their children, regardless of their current relationship with their child. To a parent, a child signifies future love, growth, and family. Their child’s future is always present in the parents’ thoughts, and is often a legacy of their own lives. Parents feel that all they do for their children gives life meaning. When a child is killed, the hopes and dreams for a child are lost. Parents whose children have been killed are likely to feel empty—empty of hope and the desire to go on. The death of your child may make everything else seem pointless. With the loss of those hopes and dreams, parents lose much of the meaning in their lives. If there are other children, not all meaning has been removed. And yet even with other children, a huge void exists. You can never replace a child. When a child is killed, the parent is likely to feel the child’s death was deeply wrong for both child and parent, so wrong it can hardly be expressed. The sense of wrongness may come because most people live their lives believing they would outlive their children. Having their child die implies that something unnatural has happened. After the death of a child parents are often terrified that another family member may be killed and go to great lengths to monitor their activities. Death of an Only Child Many aspects of grief are common to all bereaved parents, but childless parents discover early on that some feelings and some issues are different from those confronting bereaved parents with surviving children. Suddenly, you are childless. You are still a parent, but no longer a practicing parent. You will always love your child and have the memories of them. These memories will sometimes comfort you, yet at other times be very distressing. You will endure a similar grieving process as bereaved parents who have surviving children. But, the difference begins when you realize that there will be no children with you to celebrate the holidays and milestones in your life, nor will they be there for you as you age. There may never be grandchildren. You may feel as though you are experiencing a double grief: the loss of your child and the loss of your family’s future.

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