Chapter 3: Ways your grief may be affected

If your child died suddenly or unexpectedly

I've been there
Kim talks about her son's death from a motor vehicle accident.(3:22)Video transcript

My son died suddenly in another country. We look back on that time and wonder how we ever got through it. It was like we were just going through the motions. It all felt surreal.

If your child died suddenly or unexpectedly, your first reaction is likely to be have been shock. You may have felt “in a fog” for days, weeks, or months. You may have found it hard to believe your child is really dead.

In the weeks and months that follow, other feelings will surface, and they may be very intense. You may feel angry or dismayed. You may be dealing with many why or how questions. You may have feelings of regret or guilt about something that you weren’t able to say or do. For example, you may regret having had angry words the last time you spoke. You may be “beating yourself up” for not telling them how you felt about them, for not asking for forgiveness, or for not forgiving them.

What may help

  • Remind yourself that you had no way of knowing that your child was going to die or that you would not see them again.
  • No matter how much time you had, there would likely never be enough time to say everything in your heart.
  • Find ways to express your thoughts and feelings with supportive others or by writing them down. You may want to write a letter to your child, telling them all the things you weren’t able to say before they died.
  • Recognize that taking in what has happened will take some time. Be gentle and patient with yourself.