Nothing is more devastating than the death of a child. You may be wondering how you will ever survive your loss. Some days may feel like you are taking a few steps forward while other days you may feel like you’ve gone backward.
Your relationship with St. Jude does not end because your child has died. Lisa Clark, PhD, our grief support coordinator, is available to help your family connect to grief resources, whether through the St. Jude bereavement program, your local community or online.
We want to stay in touch with you. You will receive mail from the St. Jude bereavement program several times over the course of the first year, which we hope will provide support and comfort. Please let us know if your contact information changes.
Time for Grieving
Grief is deeply personal and no two people grieve the same. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve, and there is no magical time frame for getting through it. While grieving involves many difficult emotions, feelings of joy, contentment and humor may also be present. Things will never go back to the old “normal,” but in time your emotions can become bearable again. Adjusting to the absence of your child may require you to develop new routines, envision a new future, and even adopt a new identity for you and your family.
When your grief is new, you may find yourself feeling numb. It’s as if you are in a fog or just going through the motions. Just getting out of bed and getting dressed can feel like an overwhelming task. At times, you may want to be alone with your thoughts and emotions. You may feel detached from friends and family members, as it may seem that no one really understands what you are going through. Others may offer help, but you might not know what you need.
Common Reactions to Grief
It is common to experience and express grief in a variety of emotional and physical ways. Emotional reactions include:
- Extreme sadness or loss of enjoyment
- Guilt and regret
- Ongoing worries and fear
- Emptiness or numbness
- Loneliness or feeling detached
You may experience physical reactions such as:
- Difficulty eating or upset stomach
- Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of tiredness or exhaustion
- Grief counseling can be helpful at any point in the grief journey. Contact Lisa Clark, PhD, St. Jude grief support coordinator, for assistance in locating a counselor in your community.
- Identifying one key person to coordinate offers of help and support from others may be useful.
- Many people find comfort in the company of others who have experienced a similar loss, such as a support group for bereaved parents.
- Treat yourself kindly and with compassion. Give yourself time and space to grieve, but also give yourself permission to laugh and feel joy without feeling guilty.
- Physical activity has been shown to help improve mood. Going for a walk or doing a physical task may provide a moment of peace.
- Friends, family members and members of your church congregation can help you through some of the challenging aspects of grief. Accept offers of support and allow yourself to lean on others who are there to support you.
- Focus on today. Allow yourself to take one day at a time.
What To Do If You Are In Crisis
Grief-related thoughts, behaviors and feelings can be extremely distressing and unrelenting. A qualified mental health professional may be able to help. Therapy is an effective way to learn to cope with the stressors associated with loss and can help you manage distressing symptoms. Symptoms of grief can become life threatening, especially if they don’t improve after many months.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, please:
- Call 911 right away and tell the operator you are having these thoughts,
- Ask someone you trust to take you to the nearest emergency room,
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 to reach a trained counselor,
- Contact a trained crisis counselor by texting HOME to 741741 (if in the US) to receive support 24/7.