Child Loss is Turning Me into a Hermit

What happened to me? Countless parents of child loss ask that question because they feel and act so different after their child died. What happened? Why do so many withdraw from society following loss? Why do so many avoid social situations of any kind? What’s going on?

  1. Child loss brings about changes in one’s personality. Tears flow readily. Anxiety pushes a parent into a state of fear. And, laughter. What’s that? It’s as though the lights went out and the curtains are drawn on everything that was once joyful and fun!
  2. People bother us. They really do bother us when they haven’t the slightest clue about child loss. They give lectures about how we should grieve. Others try to force time limits on our grieving. They get frustrated with the changes that have come about since our child died, and they let us know. “We miss the old you! We miss you when you used to be fun. It’s time you put this in the past and begin to live again.” Ugh! We don’t need to listen to those comments when we are struggling with pain and grief!
  3. We long to be alone with our thoughts. This is normal, but not necessarily real healthy. Be careful with this one. When we withdraw from everyone and we’re living in a state of deep sadness and depression, we need to be around something or someone to help us climb out of this cave. It’s too easy to slip into a deep depression when left all alone for extended periods of time with only our thoughts.
  4. We withdraw because we think nobody really cares. The truth is — very few people will deeply care for a long time. Why? Because this isn’t their personal loss, so life has gone on for them. But for you, the parent, your world has been turned upside down and has been left with a big open hole!

So, what do we do? Are these changes permanent? Are they good for me?

  1. The tears and emotional roller coaster will eventually calm down. Give it time. Your mind needs lots of time to process the fact that your child died. That’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to deal with, so give it all the time you need knowing that it won’t always be this bad. It really won’t. Time helps soften the pain.
  2. People can’t understand child loss if they haven’t lost a child. We must remind ourselves of that fact over and over again. And, some people, especially when nervous, say things that come out all the wrong way. Cut yourself off from toxic people, by all means. But, those who are genuinely trying to support us — be thankful for those few!
  3. Journal your thoughts, rather than barricading yourself inside your home for days on end. Your mind has a lot of heavy stuff on it right now, and when you don’t make opportunities to replenish your mind with calming, positive thoughts you can slip into a deep depression. Use lots of self-care. But, be sure to get outside to walk, breathe the fresh air, and yes, talk to some people even if it’s just a mere “hello, how are you?” Isolation is not healthy — not right now.
  4. Give people the opportunity to care. If someone asks, “What can I do to help?”, give them a chore. You can pick up my groceries. You can do some light housecleaning for me — I’d really appreciate that. You can take my dog on a walk. You can bring me a meal. You can sit with me and have some coffee on Wednesday morning. You get the idea. Most people haven’t a clue how to help. They do care — just not on a deep, deep level as we’d like.

Grief is a heavy load to carry, and we shouldn’t do it alone. Yes, we’ve changed, but not all of the changes have been bad. We now understand the pain others are feeling. We now understand the value of time over things. We now appreciate all of the little things that we overlooked before our child died. Yes, we might be a hermit for a little while when the grief is so raw that it hurts to breath. But, when we emerge from this cocoon of deep sorrow and grief, we will be a different person. A wiser, more gentle person. A person with a heart that understands. A person who has lived through the worst trauma imaginable and is able to say, “I survived.”

Blessings to each and every parent and grandparent grieving the loss of a child. May the changes in you be gentle and kind. May you remember you are not walking this path totally alone. There are millions of us striving, yearning, trying to make it through another day of grief. And, together we will!

Love, Clara

Author of Hope 365: Daily Meditations for the Grieving Heart

Author of Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope