Bereavement & Self Care

by Kathy on September 8, 2011 · 3 comments

in Bereavement, Family, Grief, Healing, Loss, Love, Pain, Peace, Suicide Prevention

One of my cousins, who is a psychologist, recently sent me an email with the link to an ABC News article that she had received from the American Psychological Association (APA). The article was about a study that was done looking at the increased health risks to parents who have survived the death of one or more of their children. My cousin said that she thought I might be interested in it and suggested that I mention it here on my blog to encourage bereaved parents (like myself) to take good care of themselves, as well as try to get as much support as they need as they grieve the loss of their children.

The article is titled Grieving Parents Face Higher Risk of Early Death, Study Says and you can read it here. I really appreciate my cousin thinking of me and my readers who have lost children when she read this article. Though I was somewhat surprised to read some of the findings from the study, it certainly makes sense to me that working through grief can take a huge toll on parents, whether their child who died was stillborn, 9 minutes, 9 months, 9 years or any other age old.

I also found reading this article to be very validating. This was because it highlighted some of the healthy ways that bereaved parents can practice self care and thus be at less of a risk for some of the factors that lead to weaker immune systems and even early death.  Over the years some of our friends and family members have questioned (either directly or implied) some of the ways that I have chosen to work through my grief over the death (and honor the memory) of our baby girl Molly, who died not long after her birth in April 2008. So reading that many of my coping mechanisms are not only normal, but also considered healthy approaches to grief and loss was very comforting to me.

The article also mentioned that one reason the study found bereaved parents to have a higher risk of early death, was due to the number of mothers and fathers who are so overcome with grief after the passing of their children, that they choose to take their own lives. This was heartbreaking for me to read, but I will say that I know many fellow bereaved parents who really struggled to find the will to go on living after having to bury one of their sons or daughters. Being that this week is Suicide Prevention Week, I want to emphasize again how important it is for all of us that are dealing with grief and the loss of loved ones (at any age and for any reason) to seek out the care and support that we need.

It is wonderful when friends and family members seem to know “just what to do” and manage to find the “right words” to help us as we heal from the death of our children. But as we know, it is not easy for loved ones to know what to do or say for us and it is not fair for us to expect that they should be able to read our minds and hearts like that.

So I encourage any of you reading this right now who are mourning the loss of a loved one, especially a child, to please take care of yourselves and if you do not feel that you are getting the support that you need, please consider looking into one or more of the resources listed below to get some help:

You do not need to go through this experience alone and though everyone in your life may not show you the sensitivity and compassion that you crave, there are people out there who can and will be there for you during this extremely painful time in your life.

I know first hand what a difference it makes to have friends and family members who “get it” and make the effort to try to understand what it means to be a bereaved parent, even if they don’t have experience losing a child themselves.

I also have found immense support from participating in a monthly perinatal bereavement support group at our local hospital with other parents who have lost babies, as well as the connections I have made communicating via the Internet with other bereaved parents on discussion boards and reading/commenting on each other’s blogs.

Thank you to all those reading this who have and continue to help me on my journey through grief and loss. It has been almost 3 1/2 years now since the death of our daughter Molly and as another bereaved mother is quoted as saying in the article my cousin sent me, “The loss of a child is something that you have to live with the rest of your life. While you do learn to live with it, you don’t get over it.” I have shared that sentiment here on my blog before and it still rings very true to me.

Many thanks to my cousin for bringing this important article to my attention and suggesting that I share it with you. For those of you grieving the loss of a child, or an older loved one, on this night (or whenever you read this) I wish you strength, courage, peace and comfort as you learn to live without that person in your life.

Note: If any of you have other resources that you recommend for those grieving the loss of a child, or another loved one, please feel free to share links and information in the comment section here. Thank you.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 areyoukiddingme September 9, 2011 at 7:31 am

I still find it amazing that people actually criticize the grieving process of others. Especially when it comes to the loss of children – which everyone without fail says is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person.

(Disclosure: I am critical of my mom, but that's because she feels that my dad's death happened to her and no one else. She doesn't seem to realize, even after 20 years, that her daughters might have some feelings of their own to deal with.)

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2 Keiko September 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

This is a truly important post. Thank you Kathy, for sharing. A great resource.

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3 embracingtherain September 13, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Thanks for sharing Kathy. I would add http://facesofloss.com/ to the list for miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss.

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