Learning to live without your child

Over time, moments of overwhelming grief may feel less intense or be less frequent. Some of the things that you may have found almost impossible to do since your child’s death may become easier, like visiting places you went with your child or remembering them with a smile. Returning to work and to ordinary routines can be helpful. It's important that you do whatever you need to do and at your pace to help you adjust to the changes in your life.

How grief changes over time

It will take time to learn to enjoy yourself again. At the moment you might struggle to find any joy in life but further down the line, you might catch yourself having fun. This should never make you feel guilty. It doesn’t mean that your loss is any less or that you are forgetting your child. It’s also important to allow yourself to let go of certain rituals that are preventing you from living your own life. For instance, it can be helpful in the short term to visit your child’s grave every day. But this is not a sustainable way to live. It doesn’t mean you are “moving on”, just moving forward.

In the first few weeks or months, it’s hard to escape your feelings of loss. They’re there first thing when you wake up, they’re at the back of your mind as you go about your day, and they’re there on your mind and in your heart when you go to bed at night. It’s hard to imagine your life will ever feel any different.

It can help to think about it in terms of circles of grief. Imagine your life is a circle. When your child dies, your life becomes completely shaded by your grief.

Many people believe that, over time, their grief will shrink and become something the can manage: a smaller part of their life. They don’t usually think it will go away completely – this is, after all, their child who has died, and you don’t forget your child – but they think it will become something they have a handle on and feel in control of.

But something else happens. As time goes by, other people and other situations come along, and your life grows around your grief. You find yourself taking pleasure in things and feeling enthusiasm for life again. It’s not that you “get over” your grief or that you have forgotten your child, or even that they become less important to you. It’s more that their life and death become part of who you are.

Most days you live in the sunny part of your life, but there are still times when a photograph, a smell, a song or an anniversary can remind you of your loss, and you find yourself back in the shade for a while. This can happen five months, five years or even 50 years after the death, and is a natural response.

The video below helps to illustrate how grief changes over time.

In the early days, you imagine you’re never going to feel happy again. Everything was so depressing and life just didn’t feel like worth living. However, the sun did come out again. My life turned around in lots of different ways.

The relationship between grief and faith

The loss of your child might cause you to wrestle with your faith, or you might draw great comfort from it. You might veer between the two, or find yourself somewhere in the middle.

Other people might challenge your faith and question why this could be allowed to happen. Or on the other hand, people could assure you that there is a plan and that you should place your trust in your faith. These comments, although probably well-intentioned, could leave you feeling angry or you might feel that this prevents you from being able to talk about your pain, or how it’s affected your faith.

It’s hard to untangle spiritual questions from the strong emotions connected to your grief but periods of doubt are a normal part of both belief and grief. It’s likely that as time moves forward, your feelings will settle. If you have a partner who shares your faith, try talking to them about how you feel, or confide in another close relative or friend. If you feel able to do so, you could try to seek counsel from your faith community.

Having another child

Making the decision to have another child will undoubtedly come with a complicated mix of emotions. You might feel that you are betraying your child’s memory. You might worry that it’s too soon, or that other people will judge you.

Whatever you decide has to be right for you. Having another child does not mean that you are replacing your child. But for some, having some distraction and joy in their lives can help them to cope with their grief.

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