Coping With the Loss of a Loved One

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Grief in children

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Losing a child

Facing the death of a child may be the hardest thing a parent ever has to do. People who have lost a child have stronger grief reactions. They often have more anger, guilt, physical symptoms, greater depression, and a loss of meaning and purpose in life. A loss is tragic at any age, but the sense of unfairness of a life unfulfilled magnifies the anger and rage felt by parents.

A longer and slower bereavement and recovery should be expected when someone loses a child. The grief may get worse with time as the parents see others going through the milestones they expected to pass with their child.

Getting support

Bereaved parents especially may be helped by a grief support group. These groups may be available in the local community. You can ask your child’s cancer care team for referral to counseling or local groups. If you have lost a child, please contact us for Resources for Parents and Families Who Have Lost a Child to Cancer, or read it on our website.

You can also contact Compassionate Friends, a nationwide self-help organization offering support to families who have experienced the death of a child, of any age, from any cause. It publishes a newsletter and other materials on parent and sibling bereavement. Compassionate Friends also refers people to more than 600 meeting locations around the country. Online support groups, such as those at GriefNet can be another way to connect with others. See “To learn more” for contact information on both of these organizations.

Last Medical Review: 12/23/2014
Last Revised: 03/11/2015