Losing a child is perhaps the most painful experience any parent can have. When the loss is without warning or explanation, it is even more unbearable. The immediate reaction of parents to such a death is total shock. Feelings of denial, unreality and numbness are common and parents often feel they are living in a nightmare from which they will wake up.
Grief is a very personal emotion and everyone will experience it differently. There are many different emotional responses – sadness, anger, fear, blame, despair and guilt are all common and some of these may last for years. Some people find it helpful to go over the events leading up to the death again and again, finding that it eases the pain to talk in this way. Others find no comfort from this and shut themselves off in their own world of grief. Parents will grieve differently and may find that they are unable to provide much support for each other. It can be very helpful to share what they are feeling with someone outside the family such as their doctor or social worker.
Some of the physical manifestations of grief can be very hard – nausea, pain in the chest and arms, exhaustion. The bereaved person may also fear that they are losing their mind. All these are normal parts of the grief process.
Grief is not something which can be measured in terms of time. The emotions involved can resurface for many years, particularly at anniversaries, birthdays, family celebrations and special landmarks, such as when the child would have started school. Although the acute pain will gradually diminish, the baby who died will never be forgotten.