For Parents / Families Facing Or Experiencing Bereavement

For many parents, feelings of grief begin from the moment of diagnosis, which almost always comes as a terrible shock. Parents may feel bereft of an assured happy future and of all the hopes that they carried throughout pregnancy and the early days of their child’s life. Some may show their grief and talk openly; others may not want to be seen to be upset and try to focus on day-to-day tasks and practicalities. 

Whatever you've been through following diagnosis, and however you've managed, no one can ever imagine how they'll feel and cope if their child dies. Grieving parents have said they experience a whole range of emotions, including - anger, guilt, numbness, despair, emptiness, sadness. Some have said they felt as if they were losing their sanity and just couldn’t face day-to-day life anymore; there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ reaction.

You may experience some sense of relief that your child’s suffering is over, and they're now at peace. You may feel guilty that you are relieved or even thankful; many parents experience this and it’s natural to have these feelings. You may also feel completely drained as so much of your time and energy has been taken up with caring and it may seem that you've lost not only your child, but also your way of life.

Grief is tiring and you may already be exhausted by caring for your sick child at home or in hospital. Although you may not feel like it, it’s important to look after yourself. If you don’t feel like eating or are having problems sleeping, you can always talk to your doctor about how you're managing. They can advise and might prescribe medication to help you to cope in the short term. 

It’s very common for couples to grieve differently and at different paces. For example, one partner may cope by wanting to talk endlessly, while the other may try to escape into their work. There's no ‘right way’ to grieve but it’s often helpful for both parents to be able to cry and talk about their feelings to someone other than, or in addition to, each other. 

Page last reviewed /; updated: February 2021
Next review due: February 2022