Types of Grief
There are various types of grief you can experience after the loss of your child.
Never expect to grieve like someone you may know, as no two people will ever grieve the same.
This can occur when your grief and mourning are very brief. You may replace the role of the child with someone or something else. Replacements such as taking care of other children, a spouse, or elderly parents can cause you to not focus too much on the death of your child.
There is also the possibility that a strong bond was not developed between the child and mom which can cause the mom to overcome the death quicker.
When you show absolutely no sign of grief and act as though nothing has happened. This can be characterized by complete shock or denial, especially in the face of sudden death. This behavior can be concerning if it goes on for an extended period of time.
When you are not able to pinpoint exactly what is difficult about handling the death. It could mean never walking in a certain park again, or never going back to the ocean. Perhaps it means going down that street where your child played or to his/her favorite restaurant is not possible. Ambiguity makes it hard to fully grieve death because you are not able to identify your emotional pain.
This can occur when you are expecting death to happen, perhaps due to a chronic or long-term illness. Anticipatory grief manifests the same symptoms as those experienced after an unexpected death.
To accept a loved one's death while he/she is still alive may leave the mother feeling they are abandoning the dying child. In other cases, anticipating the death sometimes makes the attachment to the dying child stronger. Although, anticipatory grief may help mothers; the dying child (those old enough to understand they are dying) may experience too much grief, causing them (the patient) to become withdrawn with disappointing feelings that the family is waiting for them to die.
When a child dies and it is felt by a collective group such as a community, society, village, or nation as a result of an event such as a war, natural disaster, terrorist attack, death of a public figure, or any other event leading to mass casualties or national tragedy.
Families often experience collective grief when dealing with community and school shootings, bombings, home fires, and etc.
When an individual(s) life or professional occupation prohibits them from grieving at the time of the child’s death; in their minds, they are in control and they can intentionally push grief back. They may say, “I don't have time to be sad or depressed – I have a house to pack!” Perhaps a teacher may say, “Its finals and graduation is next week, I have to focus on my students right now!” Or, a physician may say, “My patients need me right now!”
However, when grief hits them, it may be in the middle of the best day they have ever had. They may see something as trivial as an earring or a button that can shift the individual into an outburst of tears about the individual that died.
This can occur when an individual, culture, society, or support group, make a mom feel the death of their child is invalid or insignificant. This can occur when death is stigmatized due to suicide, HIV/AIDS, drunk driving, etc. Some may consider a child’s death insignificant to a step or adopted parent.
Disenfranchised grief can also be associated with a child who is alive but has sustained a head injury causing a Traumatic Brain Injury or Mental Illness. Some believe this type of relationship is insignificant.
This occurs when an individual shows no outward signs of grief. This type of grief is normally experienced by mothers who have difficulty expressing their feelings.
The process of mourning can also be inhibited in situations when mothers try to stay strong in order to not affect their other children. Or simply, when someone is very reserved and want to grieve privately.
Grief reactions that impair normal functioning, however, the individual is unable to recognize these symptoms and behaviors are related to death. Symptoms are often masked as either physical symptoms or other maladaptive behaviors.
The process to overcome grief is different for everyone; no two people will ever experience it the same. Contrary to the name, there are no guidelines to define normal grief in terms of severity of grief or timeline. Instead, think of normal grief as any response that resembles what you might expect grief to look like.
Many people define normal grief as the ability to move forward with their lives, along with the acceptance of death within a suggested period of time. Some say, “Those who experience normal grief are able to continue functioning in their basic daily activities.”
This occurs when a mother experiences additional grief due to her child’s death. Perhaps the child died just before his/her graduation, wedding or acceptance into law school. This can cause new grief to a mother as she will not be able to witness her child experiencing their life accomplishments and goals.
Sudden Death Grief
Sudden death is often unexpected and can occur when you believe your child is getting better or soon to be discharged from the hospital, and an undiagnosed illness causes them to die. Sudden deaths can also be caused by suicide, vehicle accidents, drownings, or murdering. There can be various causes for sudden deaths, what unites them is they are all unexpected and unanticipated.
A mother experiencing a sudden death will likely identify with the stage of denial before transitioning to the other stages of grief.
A traumatic death is often through an accident such as a fire, drowning, vehicle, or violence. Normally, it is perceived that the child's death was frightening, horrifying, unexpected, violent and/or traumatic.
The grief process is often delayed because of the unbelievable pain the mom may feel her child experienced before their death.
This can occur when a person is being denied the right to grief and express her emotions about the death of a child. Perhaps a man has remarried and the child from the first marriage dies. The second wife may feel or may have been told she does not have the right to grieve for the child since she is not the biological mother. The second wife can have sincere grief but dealing with the pain of others disqualifying her grief.