Chapter 2: Understanding your grief

Thoughts and feelings

I've been there
Aimee and Michi talk about writing a blog to release their anger.(3:22)Video transcript
Emma says she doesn't have any control over when her grief comes out.(3:22)Video transcript
Valerie remembers surprise and disbelief when her daughter died.(3:22)Video transcript

Since my daughter died, I often feel like I am watching a movie of life – watching people come and go, but not feeling connected to any of it.

You probably didn’t expect that your child would die before you. After your child has died, you may feel like you’re in a daze or numb, and believing that this death really happened can take time. You may find it hard to imagine a time when you’ll fully engage with life again.

You may feel a profound sadness and a deep longing for your child. You may feel that it’s unfair that your child did not live a long and healthy life. Many bereaved parents have felt lost, like their lives no longer have any meaning. You will likely have a range of thoughts and feelings – some that you may expect, and others that might surprise you.

Some of your feelings and thoughts may seem devastating. Others may seem conflicting or confusing, such as anger and sorrow. Click on each of the boxes below to view examples of some of these feelings.

Why my child and not me?


Why didn’t someone keep my child safe?


Why did my child drink and drive?

I should have been with him when he died.


I should have told her more often how much I loved her.


I wish I hadn’t let them go on that trip.


I should have been more understanding when she told me about her pain.

It was my job to keep them safe.


If only I had kept him on the phone longer.


If only I had trusted my gut and told her not to take that job.

My bad genes led to his death.


If my husband hadn’t smoked, she wouldn’t have either.


We should never have let him buy that motorcycle.

One of the strongest parental drives is to protect your children. You may have things that you wish you could do over or do differently. You may be feeling helpless that you were not able to prevent your child from dying. You may feel stuck on one memory or thought about something that happened: “If only I’d noticed the symptoms earlier, they might have been able to cure her.” Often this stems from a wish for control – some way to have prevented the death.