0191 490 9301

Coping with the loss of a child

The loss of a baby or child can cause unimaginable grief. According to Child Bereavement UK, more than 6,000 babies and children were stillborn or died under 16 years of age in 2021. That’s thousands of families who have to try and come to terms with a terrible loss. In this blog, we look at coping with the loss of a child, strategies for navigating those early days, and how therapy can help if you are a bereaved parent.

There’s no ‘normal’ way to grieve

Grief is one of the most painful experiences a person can go through. After losing a child, you may experience some intense overwhelming emotions and strong physical reactions such as:

  • Intense sadness which can become depression
  • Yearning for your lost child and the loss of what could have been
  • Shock and confusion about why the loss has happened
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Anger about what has happened-it’s not unreasonable to ask ‘why has this happened to us?’
  • Inability to eat, sleep, or concentrate

After any kind of loss, there is an adjustment period which can take a long time. You may be so numb with shock that you can’t respond at all to what happened. After this, there’s often a period of time when you go over what happened in detail to try and make sense of the situation. There can then be a time of feeling utterly helpless and despairing, before eventually, being able to make sense of it in a way that enables recovery. This process is in no way seamless though, and everyone experiences grief differently. There is no ‘normal’ way to grieve.

Coping with the loss of a child – Steps towards healing

Don’t expect too much of yourself in the early days

In those early days after losing a child, you will have intense and painful feelings. Let them come, and try to remember that they won’t last forever. Take it day by day, or even hour by hour. You might feel okay in the morning then in the afternoon it can all feel like too much. You are grieving and it’s a normal reaction to what you have been through. Don’t expect too much of yourself or try to do too much.

Try to reach out and ask for what you need

Grief can be an incredibly lonely experience. It’s tempting to isolate yourself from others when you think they can’t possibly understand what you’re going through. People may keep their distance from you, worried that they might say the wrong thing. While it’s true that you may need some alone time to process things, try to reach out and ask for what you need. Whether it’s someone to listen or provide practical help with meals and chores, every little helps.

Find a support group

Being able to connect with others who have experienced the loss of a child can be helpful and healing, and helps you realise you’re not alone. There are also some amazing charities providing help, advice, and support to bereaved parents including:

The Lullaby Trust https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/  For parents who’ve lost their child as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

A Child of Mine https://achildofmine.org.uk/ which supports bereaved parents across the UK.

4Louis https://4louis.co.uk/ which supports families through miscarriage, stillbirth and child loss.

Keep the memory of your child alive

This can be an important way of coping with the loss of a child. For many bereaved parents, it’s important that their child is remembered and acknowledged as being part of their family. There are lots of ways you can do this, from making a memory box to taking part in remembrance events on National Bereaved Parents Day each year in July.

Find ways to express your feelings

Having all of those intense feelings inside can make you feel a bit like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. Finding healthy ways to express your feelings can be helpful. You might like to journal or start a blog to help process your loss. Spending time out in nature doing something physical like walking or gardening can also help. Some bereaved parents set up charities in memory of their child, turning their terrible loss into something that can help others who are going through the same.

Know when to seek help

Grieving is a very individual process and there’s no time limit on how long the intense and painful feelings will last. In some cases, though, grief can become complex. Intense physical and emotional symptoms are a normal part of the grieving process, but when they don’t reduce in intensity over time, it may be time to think about getting professional help. It’s estimated that around 10% of people grieving a loved one develop complex grief. This happens for all different kinds of reasons, but in the case of the loss of a child, sudden loss can trigger it. When you lose a child without warning, there’s no opportunity for closure and it’s more shocking and traumatic. Being unable to make sense of what’s happened can cause people to get stuck in their grief to the extent that they are unable to move forward, and it has a profound effect on their day to day functioning.

If you are experiencing/have experienced grief and loss, working with one of our experienced therapists can help. They can walk with you on your journey, help you process your feelings, and help you find ways to move forward again. You can find out more about how to access our therapy services here.

How to support someone who has lost a child

If someone you know is grieving the loss of a child, it can be hard to know what to do or say. Here are some tips on what to do and not what to do if you want to be supportive.

  •      Don’t say things which make it sound like you are minimising their grief or comparing it with yours, such as ‘You can always try for another baby,’ or ‘I lost my dad so I know how you feel.’
  • Do admit that you don’t know what to say, that’s completely fine. Rather than avoiding acknowledging the loss or saying something cliched, you may choose to offer a simple hug, but do not take it personally if that offer or any other offer is declined.
  • Do offer practical help such as making meals, helping with chores, or running errands.
  • Do check in at difficult times like the anniversary of the loss or around holiday times like Christmas. Offer to plan something nice for that day, but also appreciate that the bereaved parent may just want to be alone and mark the occasion in their own way.

Coping with the loss of a child-you don’t need to do it alone

Losing a child is incredibly painful and life-changing, and you should not and do not have to go through the grieving process alone. Even if it feels difficult, reach out, ask for what you need, and allow yourself to lean on others whether it’s friends, family, or a therapist.



National Institute of Health. (2017, October). Coping with grief. Retrieved from: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/10/coping-grief (stat on complex grief)