When a parent loses a child, it's one of the most difficult and painful things they may ever have to endure. A child's death defies the natural order of the life cycle. A parent shouldn't outlive their children according to the laws of nature. At least that’s the way we're programmed to think about life and death - a child survives their parents.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Coping Immediately After Your Son’s Sudden Death
- Tips for Remembering and Grieving Your Son Who Died
When things fall out of place, and your son dies suddenly and unexpectedly, the pain of that loss can be devastating. The death of a son brings on a unique set of challenges for a parent who's mourning their loss. You're faced with not only having to cope with the pain and sorrow of losing your child but also with the guilt of having survived them.
Below, you'll find ways to help you cope with your grief and the overwhelming pain of the sudden loss of your son.
Tips for Coping Immediately After Your Son’s Sudden Death
When your son dies suddenly, you may be left feeling shock, anger, and confusion upon hearing the news. At first, it may be hard to accept the news as true. It may be difficult for you to imagine that it could happen especially when least expected.
1. Understand your feels when you heard the news
You’ll likely find yourself in a state of utter shock and disbelief for the first few minutes until the initial news sinks in. Things that usually have an impact on how you react to the news are who delivered the message and how it was delivered, the age of your son when he died, and the circumstances surrounding his death.
2. Know it's okay to ask for help
It’s helpful to have a trusted friend or loved one nearby to offer you emotional support immediately after your son’s sudden death. If you find that you’re alone when you get the news, call someone to come over or help you get home.
Let them know that you’ve just received the news of a significant and devastating loss and that you need support. You don’t need to say anything more. You can explain the details to them later when they get there.
3. Allow time to process the news
It’ll take you several minutes, hours, or even days to process the news that your son has died. Don’t put yourself on any timeline or recommended schedule for taking in this very devastating news of your loss.
Things that you should expect to feel and experience (in no particular order) in the first few hours are as follows:
- Desire to run away
These reactions are all expected in the initial stages of grief. There are different types of grief that people will experience. Things that affect how you grieve are the type of loss suffered, the relationship to the deceased, and the circumstances surrounding the loss.
You may experience some or all of the above emotional reactions. You may also not experience anything at all. Sometimes, the news has no immediate effect on you. You may be left wondering what’s wrong with you, or if this is even normal. The answers to both of these questions are 1. nothing’s wrong with you, and 2. yes, this is completely normal.
No one knows how they'll react to the news that their loved one has suddenly died. You might be thinking to yourself, “My son died suddenly, and I don't know how I should feel.”
These thoughts and reactions are a normal response to grief. As you read on, you’ll learn about the different stages of grief, and some of the expected reactions to your type of loss.
4. Ask questions
When you first receive the news, try and gather as much information as you can think to ask. During the immediate first few minutes following the news, you may still be able to think more clearly than if you were to wait a few minutes for the news to settle in.
During the time it takes for this delayed reaction to kick in, you may have been able to gather important information as to the following:
- What happened?
- Who was he with?
- Did he receive emergency treatment?
- How long did he survive?
- Did he know what happened?
- Did he experience pain?
- Who was with him during his last moments?
- Can I get their name and phone number?
- Who can I talk to to get more information?
Don’t worry if you didn’t think to ask these questions before. The opportunity for you to get this information is still there. The above is only a guideline of things to ask that might help you with your grieving process later on.
If you can go back and revisit with those persons who delivered the news to you, read reports that have been filed, or medical notations entered into your son’s chart, this will help give you a more complete picture of what happened when your son died.
5. Call someone
You shouldn’t have to go through this alone. If you find yourself all alone when you get the news that your son has died, pick up the phone and call someone. You may even consider going over to a neighbor’s house and explaining what’s happened.
Even if you don’t know your neighbors very well, this isn’t a time to figure proper etiquette on introductions. Start with a simple, “I’ve just received some devastating news, and I’m all alone. Will you help me?”
Human compassion outweighs proper etiquette rules on any given day. Don’t feel ashamed, shy, or too timid to reach out to others when you need them most. You’d likely do the same for your neighbors or for anyone needing immediate help.
6. Take a breather
You may be feeling so overwhelmed with grief and anxiety during the first few days following the death of your son. If you find it difficult to function after getting the news, start by taking a breather. Go for a walk outside and get some fresh air.
Consider whether you need time alone, or if you need the support of a friend. Take in a few deep, purposeful breaths to help calm you down. Scream at the world at the top of your lungs if it helps you feel better.
Tips for Remembering and Grieving Your Son Who Died
Expect that your grief will last from several weeks to several months, even up to a few years after suffering this tragic loss. Grief affects everyone in different ways. When you lose a child, this is one of the worst possible types of losses you’ll ever experience.
Your grief recovery may not fall so neatly into any given timeframe. Below are some ways to help you cope as you remember your son who has died.
7. Allow yourself to grieve
Right about now, you may be feeling overwhelmed with guilt over the death of your son. Undoubtedly, you may experience going through all of the what-ifs and why’s that you can possibly think of. As a parent, you may feel guilty that you didn’t do more to prevent the death of your son. You’ll begin to ask yourself what you could’ve done to protect him from this harm.
These are natural reactions to grief. Other things that you should expect to go through in your grieving process are the five stages of grief which are described below:
- Denial. Not accepting that death has occurred even when there is physical proof of it in front of you.
- Anger. Experiencing rage and feelings of hatred toward everyone and everything around you. You may even lash out at the person who delivered the news to you.
- Bargaining. Making deals with God, the universe, or your higher power so that you can have your son back.
- Depression. When the reality sets in that your son has died and is not coming back, you may start to feel an overwhelming pain and chronic sadness.
- Acceptance. When you work through the above stages, you will eventually learn to accept that your son has died, and that you will have to move forward in life without him.
8. Buy a remembrance gift
There’s nothing that says that you can’t buy yourself something beautiful in which to remember your son. Some of the more traditional things to buy or receive are:
- Memorial wind chime
- Engraved garden stone or plaque
- Memorial jewelry
9. Join a support group
You may find that dealing with the loss of your son may be a bit overwhelming. As time goes by, you may notice that members of your immediate support group have gone back to their everyday lives. You may be feeling abandoned and out of touch with everyone around you.
If this happens to you, remember that you’re not alone. There are others who have experienced a similar loss to yours and can offer you the support that you need. You can connect with others who have also lost a son suddenly and unexpectedly by going online and searching them out. You can find online support groups that meet your needs by searching them out in the many grief forums online through apps such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Losing Your Son Suddenly
The sudden death of your son is a very tragic thing to ever have to experience. There are ways to help you cope with your grief like reading books about losing a child and seeking professional help. The grief process may take a little longer. In time, you will start feeling better, and life will slowly begin to move forward.