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Guilt over child’s death

 
One of the toughest jobs for a parent whose child dies is to face the guilt.
By Sumanda Maritz
Article originally in Parent24
I lost my baby son to a combination of heart related problems and a bad virus infection.

Logically I know that I shouldn’t feel guilty, but logic has absolutely nothing to do with it. I felt guilty about accepting the doctor’s demand for a hospital that we did not like. About not spending the whole day with my baby while he was lying in ICU. And for being in a hurry the day that he died.

There was nothing that I could do that would change what happened. I still sometimes get upset with the hospital staff and doctor who treated him initially. It’s easier than blaming an unfeeling virus. But at the end of the day I know that it was his time to die and that I had no control over that.

All the literature will tell you that one of the aspects of grieving is feelings of guilt. All parents feel guilty if their child has died. It doesn’t matter if those feelings are justified or not. They are there.

Parents are the caregivers and when our children die or get hurt we believe that we didn’t do our job properly. In the natural order of things we should die before our children. Not the other way around. As one mother said “No mother wouldn't given their own life for their child to still be alive”.

But how do you cope with these feelings? The very first step is to acknowledge them and to realise that it is natural to feel this way. It is one of the stages of grief that we have to go through. These stages include shock, denial, bargaining, anger, guilt, sadness and depression and finally acceptance. They happen in a different order and intensity for each individual, and may even overlap or recur.

Once you realise that what you are feeling is part of a process towards acceptance, you are able to start finding ways to cope with these feelings. The method can be as individual as the person that you are. Many parents struggle with this and take years to work through the grief, for others it is a shorter time.

Ways to cope with grief

I am unable to tell you how to cope with these feelings, but I can give you an idea of how other people have done it. Talking about his death has worked for me as well as the belief that God has a plan for our lives. And that this was part of his plan from the very beginning.

These are the ways that some mothers have told me they use to cope:
  • Religion
  • Keeping busy
  • Keeping a journal, diary or writing about it
  • Therapy, counselling and support groups
  • Doing something to remember them by, like getting a tattoo, holding memorial rides or visiting the scene of an accident
  • Actively working on happy thoughts
  • Forgiving the person/personsresponsible on a daily basis
  • Holistic methods like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

No matter what process you follow, at the end you have to forgive yourself. And this is the hardest job of all.

Have you experienced the loss of a child? Comment below, or tell your full story in an email to Chatback@parent24.com

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