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Grieving the Ripple Effects

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a child. It is not in the plans when considering the “Circle of Life.” The death of a child is an “out-of-order” death. The loss of any child, regardless of cause or age, overwhelms parents. When a child dies, the parent’s life and the family life as a whole change significantly.

Grief is one of the most complicated but natural reactions after experiencing loss. Since losing my son two years ago, so much has changed that the settlement taking it “one day at a time” is one of the few things that makes sense. It seems the narrative I created was erased; the future I envisioned is now gone. Grieving individuals are often blindsided to realize the ripple effect of subsequent losses. Even years after the loss of a child, birthdays, milestones and other reminders can trigger distress.

There are many explanations of grief processes that describe five or seven phases. The most popular model has seven stages:

  • Shock and Denial, a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.

  • Pain and guilt where you may feel unbearable pain. Anger where you may lash out with strong emotions about the situation.

  • Depression usually entails isolation and loneliness, often time spent processing and reflecting on the loss.

  • The individual is calmer and more relaxed at the early turn stage, where anger and pain have died down.

  • Reconstruction and working through steps, the individual begins to pull their life back together and move forward.

  • Acceptance and hope are the stages where the individual starts a new way of life and feels the possibility of the future.

Grief is a very personal journey and looks different for each person. The key to understanding grief is realizing that no one experiences the same thing. You may need several weeks, or grief may be years long. You should expect that you will never really “get over” the death of your child. But you will learn to live with the loss, making it a part of who you are. Your child’s death may make you rethink your priorities and the meaning of life.

“Grief is hard; There’s no way through it without the hard. Give yourself and others the gift of grace when grief is present.” ~Lisa Merlo-Booth

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