The death of a child can leave many parents drained physically, emotionally and spiritually. Whether a child has been in palliative care for days, weeks, months or years the stresses and strains of the whole ordeal can often manifest itself after a child has died. How this manifests itself will be unique to every parent as will be how you deal with the emotions of losing your child.
There are a number of services in both Ireland and Northern Ireland who specialise in helping parents, siblings and families grieve for a child. Below is a list of organisations who offer support services to bereaved families.
Nuala Harmey, Bereavement Specialist - Irish Childhood Bereavement Network
Ann Lappin, Senior Social Work Practitioner, Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice
The death of a child brings pain and heartache for parents, siblings and members of the extended family. Each individual will react differently. There are times when you may feel overwhelmed by feelings of sadness or loneliness and that your thoughts, feelings and actions are misunderstood. There is no correct path to follow; each individual’s journey is unique. Learning to recognise, acknowledge and manage the impact of your grief will challenge your family physically, emotionally and spiritually. Understanding this, and allowing those close to you to grieve in their own way, will go some way to eliminating misunderstandings and further hurt.
Bereaved parents often worry about the impact of the death on their surviving children. It can help if a close relative or friend (acceptable to the children) takes a role in supporting the siblings as often children will try to protect parents and hide their feelings from them. Do not be afraid of acknowledging sadness to siblings but reassure them this sadness will not last for ever.
Be prepared for feelings of great sadness on what would have been milestones in a child’s life such as starting school, milestones which other people may not remember but which are hugely significant and personal in a parent’s consciousness.
There are a number of services throughout Ireland, north and south, which specialise in offering help to parents, siblings and members of the extended family. Parental support groups can provide the instinctive understanding of those who have experienced such loss, along with providing professional support for those who require it.
Please see below for resources and links to services which may help to support you as you and your family learn to live with the impact of the death of your child.