What to Expect
Riley Children's Grief Team
While each person’s grief is unique and it’s impossible to fully describe the shattered heart of a grieving parent, we know grief affects all dimensions of a person.
- Emotionally: Society mistakes grief for sadness, but grief is much more than just sadness. Grief is also chaos, confusion, disbelief, longing, guilt, anger, regret, exhaustion, jealously, fear, worry and many other emotions. Sometimes emotions that didn’t coexist before, coexist in grief. For example, you may feel happy and immense guilt for feeling happy at the same time.
- Physically: Grief impacts every cell of your body. You may feel physical pain, complete exhaustion, irregular sleep, lack of appetite, and/or restlessness.
- Cognitively: Grief impacts our thoughts and our perspective. You may often feel confused, have trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks, even if they are routine. You may replay events over and over in your mind, while also wishing the replay would stop. You may focus heavily on one detail or try to remember every detail. Many parents experience difficult thoughts like “I wish it would have been me” or “Why my child? Why us?”
- Socially: Some grieving parents experience a wonderful support system from family, friends and their community. Even with support, you may feel isolated or like no one understands your loss or the depths of your broken heart. You may find people avoid you or no longer acknowledge your child. Good intentioned people may say things that you find upsetting or hurtful. It’s ok to ignore these statements or to express how they’re hurtful. You may find it difficult to be with certain people, go to certain places, or work on certain activities.
- Spiritually: Grief can change a person’s spiritual perspective. People who held certain beliefs prior to the loss, may question or struggle with those same beliefs now. On the opposite, some people find themselves leaning heavily on their faith and find it comforting. Some people wrestle with questions about the afterlife and wanting to see their child again. Many grieving parents experience signs from their child and/or feel their presence.