What mental/psychological impact does a child’s death have on parents, especially if it is an accidental death?
A death of a child is generally considered the worst kind of grief and it causes long-term impacts on the life of a parent. The circumstances around the death also matter and are a deciding factor. Grief is a process that must be allowed to happen. For instance, if the child has been ill for a prolonged period, parents may come to terms with the reality and it could have been something they anticipated and therefore a bit easier for them to grieve. On the other hand, a sudden death is expected to leave the parents more traumatised and will leave them in a state of shock or disbelief for a longer period of time. The age of the child is also an important factor. It is often believed that the older the child, the lesser the grieving – which is untrue. Losing a child by any means of abortion, miscarriage or death are all very painful and indescribable emotions.
The most common form of grieving includes anger, guilt, a sense of never being able to detach oneself from the sorrow, a feeling of disorientation and this feeling affects all aspects of life. There are mental and psychological impacts of the loss of a child on a parent. The most common physical symptoms of grief include loss of sleep, mood swings, anxiety, inability to concentrate etc. Other serious symptoms could be having nightmares, shortness of breath, etc. At times, parents become very strongly associated with their grief and disagree to let go. If any of the symptoms continue for more than a year or two it is important for the parent to consult a specialist.
How can parents stop blaming themselves for the death?
The death of a child can cause grief in parents and it is normal. They blame themselves for the death of the child, especially if it is an accidental death. Parents may go into depression and the self-blame is part of the guilt feeling caused by depression. Grief or depression up to six months can be considered normal. After six months if the depression still continues, they should get help from a specialist psychiatrist.
Parents need not blame themselves because the death of the child is not their fault. Once depression is cleared, the self-blame will be controlled.
Please share some tips on how the family can move on?
The time period of parents’ grief is uncertain and parents may at times have a very slow recovery. They are most likely to accommodate the loss of their child without long-term interruption of life, although ‘moving on’ is not a smooth process. How quickly parents get over the death depends on the pre-existing issues that they have. Although this may sound like a philosophical cliché, time will recover the loss. It may be difficult to reconnect with people immediately after a child’s death, but being social beings, parents will need to reconnect with the society be it work or any other purpose. Parents can visit a counsellor to begin the healing process. Getting professional help to assist them to understand their emotions and making positive changes in their life, is what the grieving parents should consider. There are also clinical approaches to help parents find meaning and a sense of purpose for their own life in order to gain a sense of well-being and lead a normal life.
Does the impact of the death spill on to all members of the family including other children?
A child’s death brings pain to everybody affected by it, along with incredible difficulties for grieving parents. The cultural beliefs of each family differ and the impact may depend on it. In some cases, parents do not seek concern from the extended family or choose not to seek support from them for various reasons. If the parents had only one child who passed away, having another child may sometimes help.
Dr. Mohammed Yousef
Aster Clinic, Al Muteena(DMPC)