Chapter 3: Ways your grief may be affected

The age of your child when they died

I've been there
Aimee talks about being pregnant while grieving Stella's diagnosis, but being happy that Stella got to know her brothers before she died.(3:22)Video transcript
Gerry Martin reflects that even a child's short life can touch and help a lot of people.(3:22)Video transcript
Sharon describes how her young son was involved in the decision to stop his cancer treatments. (3:22)Video transcript

My son lived just one day. In the midst of my sorrow, there was still incredible joy. 

Our son was just starting a family of his own when he died. I see him in both of our grandchildren. It’s been a few years now and I still have hard days, but I’ve come to know those will never go away completely.

Parenting a young child takes time, energy, and focus. You were probably very involved in their daily life. Looking after them might have been a central part of your day. Their death will have changed almost everything about your life.

You may have been less involved in their daily lives or very involved, but either way, you will miss seeing them grow into independent people. Adolescence is known to be a tumultuous time. If your teen was going through some tough times or if your relationship was becoming increasingly difficult, your grief may be more complicated. You may have a sense of the adult person they were about to become, as well as the “hormone-riddled” teen they also were.

Although your day-to-day life as a parent looks very different when your children are adults, you don’t stop caring for them and about them. Your adult child may have been living with you or nearby, or they may have established themselves halfway around the world. You might have been close, with or without physical distance; or you might have drifted apart or become estranged. They may have been completely independent from you or they may have relied on you for child care, finances, house repairs, or companionship.

You might find yourself thinking back to conflicts or misunderstandings and yearning for the chance to make things right. You may also be recalling some of the best times you had together. These memories can bring both comfort and sadness.

What may help

  • Recognize the ways that your day-to-day life has been changed by the death of your child.
  • Name the losses that have come with your child’s death – hopes, dreams, opportunities, etc.
  • If there were conflicts or difficulties in your relationship with your child, acknowledge these and allow yourself to grieve not having a chance to resolve them. You may also want to write a letter to your child, expressing your regret and love. Remind yourself that conflict is a normal part of parenting.
  • Reach out to supportive people who can listen without judgment to your thoughts and feelings.
  • If you’re struggling with intense feelings or overwhelming thoughts, consider speaking with an experienced grief counsellor.