Parents may feel responsible for not protecting the child, for not being able to spare them the suffering of any pain, or for not being able to tend to the surviving children the way they would like. Most parents will need to think and rethink all of the “What Ifs”: what if I chose a different treatment, what if I did this differently, what if I was at home, what if we weren’t swimming, etc..
Parents may feel angry because the order of nature was not respected, their child may have had to suffer or because their child wasn’t allowed to “grow up.” There may be anger directed to others: doctors, spouses, others perceived as being responsible or may be directed at the self for not preventing it. Parents may also be angry with God or begin questioning their faith. But mostly they’re angry because their child is not there to hug and hold ever again.
Parent’s longing for the child can be equally excruciating. Parents talk about missing the smell, touch, sight, and sound of their child. Parents may communicate the pain of losing a child in physical terms, “I feel mutilated” or “I’m disabled,” and have a yearning just to “feel” the child again.
These include changes in sleeping patterns, appetite, nausea, headaches, lack of energy, restlessness, irritability, inability to concentrate or difficulty with short-term memory. Many parents report having dreams about their child and/or having a sense of their child being “present.”
Nothing in life prepares a parent for the pain of losing a child. There will be sadness because there was love. Crying is part of healing. At times, there may be overwhelming sadness that stops a parent from getting out of bed or from taking two steps out their door. Other times, it may just be an emptiness that nobody else can fill.
There may be several “good” days, when suddenly a song on the radio, a TV commercial or a scent triggers a memory of the child and suddenly all the feelings and emotions come racing back.