Coping with the loss of a child

Kids n dogsThere’s been an interesting run of comments in The Guardian this week connected to a feature asking questions about coping with the loss of a child.

The article features an interview with Denise Turner, who lost her son Joe to cot death aged 19 months. That was 9 years ago. Denise now lectures at Sussex University and for her PhD research, has talked to other bereaved parents about their experiences. She’s interested in how parents are treated by professionals they come across after the sudden death of a child – the medics, police and others. In the article she shares her experience of the challenges she faced… among them that others had expectations of how her grief should manifest and that she wasn’t doing it right. It seems to have annoyed a lot of people.

Like Denise, Final Fling’s associate grief expert, Kristie West, has a view of grief that challenges the grand dame’s – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross that we will all go through a cycle of bewilderment, confusion, denial, anger and so on. Kristie too thinks grief is more of a fingerprint that a one-size-fits-all glove. And both believe that death and grief can be positive, life-enhancing experiences that don’t have to rugby tackle you to your knees to be felt.

Neither is asking anyone to follow their path. Just that we all be allowed space and tolerance to emote and behave the way that we need to.

My own tastes of loss and grief have been flavoured with blessings – not a word I’d usually use – but at the core of their bite has been a sweetness… the pleasure of knowing wonderful people, of having been part of good lives, well-lived, (mostly) long-lived and for the most part, good deaths. I haven’t had to face the trauma of coping with the loss of a child.

I suspect on the spectrum, I’m a bit like Denise. I profile as an active-pragmatist and when I’ve been slapped around the head by life’s dark underbelly, my high functioning parent takes over and gets on with wiping up the sick, the shit and tidying up the house before I go sit in the dark and be soft with myself.

Denise’s attending paramedic offered: “You need to sit down and you need to start to grieve.” Well intended I’m sure. I think the thing is to welcome that and all other advice and support and then do what you have to do.

Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds show one way of coping with the loss of a child. There are others. Love and tender kindness is what we need to show each other. Not judgement about who’s getting it right and who’s getting it wrong.

If you have an experience to share, please do. 

Find support from a counsellor or coach.


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