Sunday, September 25, 2011

Coping As a Single Bereaved Parent

“No one is there in the middle of the night to offer soothing words or comforting touches. No one is around for joint decision making. No one can hold me during those moments when the pain is unbearable.” These are words from single parents who have lost a child, particularly an only child.

To a certain extent you can count on friends, relatives, other grieving parents and counselors to be of some help, but what is necessary to survive and move on with your life is different for each one of us, and we must remember that. Your grief, in some degree, will last your lifetime.

Even though we all know that losing a child is the worst imaginable event in life, there may be some advantages to be a single parent. Some feel fortunate not to have to deal with someone else’s needs full time after a loss such as this. It allows you freedom to do your grief work and allows you to rebuild a life in your own time.

One grieving mother said, “I can grieve alone and with absolute abandon, without concern that my moaning, screaming, or withdrawal will upset my spouse. I do not have to force myself to be on guard with words or actions. I am not on a different grieving track from my spouse; therefore I am not dealing with resentment or misunderstanding from another or having to feel guilty for my own grieving state or for not comforting him. When decisions are necessary, there are no differences or friction. The only tension, anger or moodiness is with myself.”

However, for those who have other children to worry about and care for, your job becomes twice as difficult. Now you must deal with them while trying to keep your own head above water. Loneliness, heartache for the loss of your child and worry about your life and lifestyle are common concerns.

“You can not change what happened,”…an important message that you need to remind yourself of each day. You will have to deal with new problems you encounter, as well as the daily ones, whether you have lost your only child or have others.

You will find that your mind will continually go back to the moment before your child died and wonder if you could have done anything to save him/her. When we find ourselves slipping back into the darkness of our pain, one counselor said that it is okay to go back to do whatever has helped you in the past deal with painful situations. For example, one mother found peace in going to Yosemite National Park each year on her son’s birthday and then began to move on with her life. Recently, she found a need to go back there to bring that peace and comfort back into her life. It worked for her.

Maintain a support system of some kind, especially if you have lost your only child and have no other living family. No one can do everything themselves; no one is that strong. Don’t turn people away when they are willing and able to help. For example, a friend may ask if she can do your shopping for you or help you cook some meals. Don’t be too quick to say “No.” Your friend will feel like she is doing something helpful, and you can probably, whether you want to admit it or not, use the time to take care of something else.

Listen to yourself, pay attention to how something feels and trust yourself and your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, avoid it, if possible. Take care of yourself emotionally. Others would like to see some joy in your face eventually as you would also. Take care of yourself physically also. Exercise, eat right and get a good night’s sleep.

Always remember that you will survive this, while you always remember your child. They will always be with us, watching over us, and that is, indeed, a great comfort and a reason to move on with our lives.

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