Of all the deaths that we can experience in our environment, that of a child is the one that can become the most traumatic. No father or mother is supposed to outlive their child, let alone when the child dies while still very young.
Grieving over the death of a child is one of the most difficult processes parents can go through and, if not handled properly, can escalate into pathological grief.
This is why it is so important psychotherapy in the face of bereavement following the death of a child, a question that we will address in the following lines and break down how parents experience this process.
What is mourning?
Although death is the only certainty that exists in this life, it remains a taboo subject in our society. The inability to speak openly about death is even more noticeable when it comes to the death of a child. In these cases, the tendency is to hide it even more, deeming it inappropriate and very awkward to bring up the subject or bring it up in a conversation with relatives, and even less with the relatives of the deceased.
It is true that time can heal the sadness and pain that accompanies the death of a child, but in many cases it is necessary to approach it openly to avoid developing pathological grief. This is all the more important as the death of a child is one of the most traumatic events one can face. This is why psychotherapy in the face of mourning the death of a child is so necessary.
But before we talk about the importance of psychotherapy and its role in dealing with the death of a child, let’s talk about what is meant by bereavement. Since there are few opportunities to speak openly about death, we will take advantage of it now. Grieving is defined as a normal adaptive response to an event important to the person and can be either the death of a loved one or a job breakdown or loss.
Mourn the death of someone it’s still a part of our lives, but it’s still a painful and stressful life process.. This pain reaches titanic proportions when the deceased is our child, entering an extremely heartbreaking episode for which no father is prepared. It is assumed that it is the children who outlive the parents, and not the other way around.
Grieving is a very complex process, experienced in a unique and irreplaceable way, with a great impact on the emotions of those who experience it. The duration of this process varies greatly, although specialists agree that it ranges from six months to a year, during which they live and go through different phases (denial, anger, negotiation, depression and acceptance). This does not mean that after a year everyone is fully recovered. Everyone experiences it in their own way, and the rest that follows is also very varied and unique.
The duration and intensity of the bereavement depend on several factors, being kinship and relationship with the deceased the parameter that best predicts the intensity and duration of this period. The type of death also affects, because it is not the same to experience the death of a loved one ill for years as one who has suffered a sudden and violent death.
It can happen, surprising as it may seem to some, that grief can be experienced without the person being aware of it. His level of consciousness is relative.
Characteristics of mourning following the death of a child
The death of a child is a very traumatic and difficult event. No father expects his son or daughter to die before him. This is why we can say that the characteristics of mourning for the death of a child are very different from those expected of mourning caused by the death of another loved one which, although still painful, does not reach as much as the loss. of a child. Whether that child was an only child or a newborn, death can be even more traumatic.
Between the characteristics of grief caused by the death of a child shared with other duels we find:
- Social isolation: weak interaction with family, friends and the social circle in general.
- Abandonment of activities of interest
- Emergence of mental health problems: anxiety disorder, depression, drug addiction …
- Increased risk of death by suicide
- Somatization: physical pain, nausea, insomnia caused by emotional distress
- Overwhelming emotions: despair, guilt, sadness, anger …
Between emotional and behavioral patterns shared by parents who have just lost a child we find:
Altered perception of time
Strong emotional pain and sadness
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Grieving therapy for the death of a child
Enduring the death of a child is a process more valleys than peaks, which is why professional help is essential to overcome it in the most natural and healthy way possible.
Parents and the rest of the family need to establish smooth communication about the feelings and emotional difficulties associated with the process instead of trying to hide it while trying to make yourself strong.
Because parents will be devastated right after the death of their child, it is highly necessary that they delegate household chores and other daily habits to family and acquaintances willing to help them in these difficult times. Things as simple as shopping or doing the dishes become daunting tasks for someone who has just lost their child, and while they won’t admit it, they need help. The psychologist will be the one to help them get back to normal after a restorative therapy process.
In therapy with parents who have just suffered the death of a child, the following two aspects are mainly worked on.
Speaking openly about the facts
One of the goals is get parents to speak openly about their child’s death in order to deal with the feelings that this experience produced in them. This also aims to get them to say with confidence how they feel towards people they trust, to avoid isolation and also for the environment to play a therapeutic role by seeing parents who still need help, little does not matter how much the outward appearance does not suggest.
It often happens that these parents run the risk of isolating themselves because, although the first days are sheltered by their social circle, after a certain time these acquaintances resume their activities, resuming their routines. But for parents, not going back to the routine is not so easy because they will continue with a dead child forever.
This is why it is so important that they succeed find that person in your environment with whom you feel understood. If this person also participates in the therapy, attending sessions with the clinician and the father, it is better.
With the help of the psychologist, it is also possible for parents to resume old routines and get out of depression by activating. The therapist will motivate them to start doing things little by little to get back to normal, such as exercising, setting up times for going to bed and getting up, maintaining personal hygiene, going back to work, taking care of food… All of this will facilitate your strengthening process to better cope with grief.
Acceptance is one of the keys to the grieving process and what will determine your state of health.. Because the whole process is very personal, accepting the loss after the death of a child helps parents overcome the pain and end the grieving process in a non-traumatic way and with the least possible consequences.
With acceptance, sadness, which will not cease to be present, will be more adaptive, giving rise to other emotions that will allow you to live your life. Acceptance will be a key element for parents to gradually return to activities they previously enjoyed and to make them feel that they have a purpose in life, that life is worth living.
In therapy he makes parents aware that in order to feel happy, they do not betray the memory of their child. On the contrary, they are told that their son, wherever he is, surely wanted them to be happy and move on.