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Grief and mourning occur simultaneously as you process the loss of a child. Emotions can and will fluctuate. This will cause the grief to fluctuate through the stages. As you grieve you will find that mourning helps work through the emotions. Reminders of the child can evoke emotions and doing something in honor of that memory is the mourning response to help you work through the pain.
Mourning and griefGrief is never an easy process. It affects you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. As you grieve you mourn. Mourning is thought to be a different process. It is simply the outward expression of your internal grief. Grieving is a process that helps you navigate your thoughts and emotions after you lose a loved one. Mourning is how you express that grief.
The process of grieving is comprised of five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages can come in any order and may even be experienced at the same time. Sometimes people experience complicated grief. This grief tends to linger within the person longer than normal.
Mourning is how you express the pain you feel inside. A funeral is a ritual that you practice as you experience the death of a loved one. Sharing memories, donating to organizations, and tree plantings are outward signs of grief. These are the actions you exhibit as you mourn. Complicated grief may show intense symptoms of anger and depression.
The grieving process
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, ESV
It is important to understand that just because there is no evidence of mourning it doesn’t mean the process of grieving is complete. Since grief is internal, theremay not be outward signs of mourning. There is a time to grieve and mourn, and it may last longer than you first expect.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5b, ESV
Grief was never meant to last the rest of your life. You were not designed to live in grief after you have lost a child. God never intended for us to be weighed down forever with that type of pain. You can learn to move forward with the help of a compassionate Christian counselor.
A child is the greatest lossIn the process of life, parents don’t anticipate mourning for a child. Many have said that the heartache of losing a child is like no other pain. Because a parent doesn’t plan on a child passing away, the thought process of how to handle the pain is unknown until it happens.
Most feel that losing a child is like losing part of yourself. It changes your role as an active parent. Whether the child is two or forty-two, you are still the parent of that child. Even when he or she moves out and begins a life of his or her own, you are still an active part of his or her life as a parent. Because of the intense relationship between a parent and child, the mourning process may take a long time.
Parents look forward to many things with their children such as weddings, birthdays, holidays, and graduations. When a child passes the hopes of these events are changed. This means that parents also mourn future memories. This mourning and grieving can affect parents in physical ways. Because the pain is so intense that the parents often find that they are unable to sleep or eat. Self-care may be suspended due to the deep pain of losing a child.
Complicated grief and the loss of a child
Normal grief doesn’t last a lifetime. It is temporary. But there is grief that does not quickly fade away. It is grief that keeps a person in a despondent place of living. This grief is known as complicated grief. It is the delay in coping with grief in a normal way. Some choose to call it chronic grief. This is the grief that can cause the parent to become unhealthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.
This grief includes symptoms that are in addition to the normal symptoms of grief.
- Inability to accept the reality of the loss.
- Avoidance of any reminders of the person/loss.
- Inability to focus on anything else.
- Constant anger or irritability.
- Destructive behavior such as chemical abuse.
- Intense sadness, pain, and detachment.
- Thoughts of suicide.
- Loss of purpose.
- Feelings of guilt.
It is important to note that complicated grief can be identified by experiencing a feeling of being stuck in heartache. If you feel that you are not growing stronger in your grief, reach out to a Christian counselor near you.
Sometimes during complicated grief, the person will take on mourning as a new lifestyle. This will create an unhealthy mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical life. The disabling pain of losing a child can cause a parent to feel as though he or she is not entitled to enjoy what remains of his or her life. The loss of a child complicates grief because it goes against what is believed to be the natural order of life.
This process becomes more complicated when you are faced with end-of-life care for your child. It’s not normal for parents to go through this with a child. The disruptions that it can cause may leave the parent feeling inevitably lost. This in turn can have lingering effects on a marriage. This is most common when both parents are caught up in complicated grief.
Treatment for overcoming child loss
The most common type of treatment for complicated grief is a type of psychotherapy. Using techniques that are commonly used to treat depression, Christian counselors help parents work through the process of overcoming this debilitating grief. Along with principles from the Bible, a parent can expect to learn and understand complicated grief.
The parents will examine their reactions, symptoms, and thoughts about the loss in a way that will help them be open to the treatment. This treatment will help with improving coping skills to reduce feelings of guilt and blame. Another aspect of this treatment involves having imaginary conversations with the child to help the parent become less distressed about losing a child.
Medications may be another option for those who have been known to have clinical depression as well as complicated grief. It is important to find a counselor that can recognize your symptoms and create a treatment plan based on your grief.
Having a good support system is also a major benefit in treating complicated grief. You will want to surround yourself with those who are willing to help you stick to the treatment plan and encourage you to practice self-care. A faith-based support system will help you stay focused on biblical principles. A good support group will encourage you to socialize with those whose company you enjoy.
Understand that special dates and anniversaries may trigger painful memories. Surround yourself with ways to celebrate positively. Try doing something different for the holidays that will allow you to spend time with family in a way that makes new and positive memories while holding on to the old ones.
Life after losing a child
Even though complicated grief feels as though it will never end, there will be a time of healing. You may find that you have accepted the loss of your child, but you still ache at times. There will be a time when the grief isn’t so raw that it takes your breath away. There will be a time of new routines and new joy.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, ESV
Life will be different but you do not have to feel as though you don’t deserve joy. Losing a child did not make you less of a parent. Life will resume and you do not have to feel guilty for enjoying vacations and holidays. Your child is still your child and will always hold that place in your heart. Meeting with a Christian counselor can help you sort through all the emotions attached to the loss of a child.
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