It does not appear to make a difference whether one’s child is three, thirteen or thirty if he dies. The emotion in each of us is the same. How could it be that a parent outlives a child?



- Bereaved parent

The agony of losing a child of any age is unparalleled. There is no age or point in time that makes it any easier. No parent expects to face the death of their child and no grandparent expects to lose their grandchild.

The death of a child goes against the natural order we expect life to follow. The loss carries with it the loss of the future, the hopes, dreams, and potential that can never be fulfilled. The longing for the child and the feeling of emptiness can last a lifetime.

Some parents describe feeling complete disbelief, mixed with flashes of reality too awful to think about. You may feel numb, empty, enraged, anxious or exhausted. You may feel guilty, feeling that you were responsible for their safety and that you should have been able to prevent what happened. Some parents also feel guilty because they have survived their child.

There may be nothing you could have done differently, but such feelings can be strong and can be replayed over and over again as you try to make sense of what has happened.

More information:

When a child dies – a loss like no other

Saying goodbye to your baby or child

> When your baby dies

People grieve differently in the same family

Partners both grieve for their child, but some might be torn between their own grief and concern for their partner. For some partners whose baby has died, their grief can be overlooked by others who focus only on the birth mother.

Different family members will have different ways of managing their grief, and of trying to support each other.

Grandparents will be dealing with their own grief while having to witness the anguish of a bereft son or daughter, which can feel like a double loss. One grandmother commented that this double loss is not more of the same. It is different, a grief unique to grandparents.

Women, men and grief

The death of a grandchild

Returning to work

If you work, going back into work can be a daunting prospect. However much time you have had off work, you will still be grieving and the decision to go back to work can be a difficult one. For others, returning to work is a positive step, providing some routine to the day.

Try to meet with your manager to discuss how you would like your return handled and how best to let everyone know what has happened. Your employer only needs to have as much information as you want to give them, but it is important that they are aware. You may be anxious about becoming tearful or emotional. This may well happen but if people know the reason why, it will help them to understand your upset.

Returning to work after the death of your baby or child: guidance for employees


What may help

Grieving as part of living

You may not be able to focus on anything else but your loss and grief. Or you may focus on other activities, other people and everyday life, either to block out the pain, or simply because you have no choice. Many people do both, moving back and forth between grief-focused activities and other activities, and doing both can actually help in processing grief and finding ways to deal with it.  here is no neat pattern or timeline to this – we are all different and find our own way.

How we grieve

Helping yourself through grief

Looking after yourself physically

Grief can be exhausting, and you may feel helpless and overwhelmed at times.  It may not feel important to look after yourself physically, but this can help in managing the impact of grief.  Emotional pain shows in physical ways, such as sleep and appetite problems, or physical aches and pains. Having a routine, getting social support from other people, exercise, and managing sleep and diet are all ways to maintain your physical wellbeing. These can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and isolation, and give you more energy to be able to focus on what is most important to you.

Maintaining your physical wellbeing: support for bereaved parents

Looking after yourself (for bereaved adults)

Making memories

Finding active ways to make and keep memories of your child can help, including talking about them, photographs or belongings, doing things or visiting places that remind you of your child, and writing down memories.

You could share memory making with your partner or family. Children and adults can all benefit from sharing in simple activities that help with remembering and are ways to express feelings together and support each other. 

Remembering

Finding support

Everyone is different in what they need and there are no rules on how to grieve. You may have lots of support around you, but even so, you may feel you need additional support.

> Find support near you

> Child Bereavement UK support services

> About our Helpline