Sudden and Accidental Death 
Led By Marsha Guilliams

There is no good or easy way to lose a child. We may think that because our child died without warning or time to prepare for the death, as is the case with children with long term illnesses, it is harder for us. But we hear from families of those children they really were not prepared for their child’s death either because many times they looked for the miracle and believed their child would pull through. Frequently, when the time comes they are just as shocked and unprepared as we are.

When we lose a child suddenly we should look at our relationship(s) with a surviving child(ren) and realize the relationship with each child is different. We all are in shock and there is blessing in that shock as it cushions our feelings and reactions to the situation. As we get past some of the shock we can start on our grief work.

It is common to feel we have lost control of so much of our lives because we have lost control of the situation that caused the death of our child. We can start to regain some of the control back as we plan the funeral and make other arrangements. In many cases, we have control of our child’s possessions and how they are handled. Let well meaning friends and family know when it is not helpful to do these things for you. Our family and friends are in shock also and "helping" you may be their way of coping too. They probably don’t realize what they are doing may be hurting you. Don’t be afraid to gently tell them you NEED to be doing those things.

GRIEF IS AN ORDEAL!. Do what is best for the way you can handle it. For some, viewing the body brings reality to the situation, and is good. There are others who may not choose to view the body when there were disfiguring injuries, choosing instead to keep the last memory of the whole happy child their last memories. Reality for these parents is choosing to touch a non-involved part of the body, such as a hand or foot. Both these situations are normal, if it is what can help you cope.

In the case of sudden deaths, we have not had time to prepare. No chance to say things we would have liked to say to our child. There was no chance to rework situations we would like to have resolved. We have not had a chance to tell our children we love them, are proud of them and possibly apologize for parenting mistakes we may have made. We have to face these situations at a time when we are least able to cope and do not have the skills to cope. It is normal to be angry at a time like this. We may find we are angry with the police, or others involved with the cause of death. We may take our anger out on friends, family, neighbors or any "handy" person, IT IS NORMAL. Many of those people, if they are aware of the situation, realize it is grief at work and will understand. If not, don’t worry about it. The anger is normal.

Part of our anger in the case of an accident is with our child for putting themselves in the situation that caused the accident. We may feel we can not be angry with them and still grieve so this can lead to guilt and depression. It is very important that we are able to work through the feelings so it does not cause us further emotional harm and halt or even put us further back in our grief work.

Since we often can not deal with our feelings and / or the situation we tend to isolate ourselves. Well meaning friends will say "call me." They do not realize we frequently can not or do not want to make the initiative. Realize that we can contact a member of Bereaved Parents to help us, as they have been there and know what we are going through.

Bargaining with God to change the situation is a common occurrence. We will eventually realize all the bargaining won’t change the results and we must accept what is. We all would gladly have changed places with our child if we could have but can’t. As we get into the grief work, time will ease these feelings and help us to accept the reality of the situation. We are often angry with God for the death of our child. It is not uncommon and most of us believe God understands our anger just a we understood when our children were angry with us because of a situation.

If losing a child were a physical wound, all parents would be in intensive care units! We are wounded but the wounds are not visible. WE HAVE BIG HOLES IN OUR HEARTS! We have needs just as physically wounded people have and we must take ownership of our needs to heal, express them, in order to get the help we need to heal. Never forget our child’s love for us! As we remember that love we realize our child would not want us to hurt this much and mending can come through the love they had for us.

Beside their normal grieving process, the death of one child can be more difficult for our surviving children. Parents are faced with "If it could happen to one child our other children could die too." And, it is a parents natural reaction to tighten control and put constraints on the activities of our surviving children. These restrictions may not be realistic to the age and maturity of these children and cause them to resent us and rebel. We must make conscious efforts to be realistic in our restrictions. Holding on too tight may do more harm. Make warnings of potentially dangerous situations and then let the surviving children develop their own good judgment as they would have before the death of our child.

We must learn from bereaved parents further into the grief process that "down the road" grief changes and eases. Grief has appropriately been described as: at first being hit by a huge tidal wave. We are washed far out to sea. We may feel as if we will drown. We swim toward shore. We are again hit by another wave not quite as powerful as the first which washes us back out to sea but also not quite as far out to sea. As each waves hits we continue to swim toward shore. The process continues; being hit by a grief wave, washed out to sea, catching some equilibrium and continuing to try to swim back to shore. Keep swimming! We are making progress toward getting back to shore. At some time we will realize we are making that progress. We are still being hit by waves but each wave is less severe, we are not as far out to sea as we had been and we will make it back to shore. At some time in our grief we may say to ourselves we "are tired of being so sad". We may be afraid if it does not hurt we will forget our child. We will eventually realize, we will always hurt on some level but we can remember our child without the intense pain.

We frequently hear "stages of grief". Many of us feel the better analogy is grief tasks or work. Like housework, many tasks must be continually repeated, like dishes or cooking. Other tasks are like seasonal cleaning that only have to be done occasionally. Again do not be surprised when we must confront a feeling we thought we were done with or don’t see progress in our grieving. Like being caught in a wave we make progress and then are pushed back to cover that area again.

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