Whatever the age

Physchology today….Kenneth Doka PhD

Sometimes the death of an adult child can affect other relationships. Relations with the widowed spouse or grandchildren may change. Family events may seem so different now.

There may be other issues. Parents may feel a lack of control that complicates the loss. Though it is their child, they may have little or no control over treatment or even the funeral or burial.

The death of a child is an “out-of-order” death. Normally the parent dies first. This, too, affects grief. Parents may feel a sense of survivor guilt, questioning why their child died. There may be a sense of injustice that challenges spiritual beliefs.

How, then, can parents cope with such a loss? How can others offer support? First, it is critical to validate that grief, to recognize that the death of a child, regardless of age or circumstances, is always a horrendous event. Support is critical. There may be value in seeking counseling or joining a support group. The Compassionate Friends, for example, is a support group for parents who are grieving the death of a child.

If the parent had little control over the funeral rituals or if these rituals were not meaningful, a parent may wish to gather his or her own friends for a ritual.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that others—perhaps a spouse, siblings, children and friends, share this loss. Grieve with them.

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