Amanda Reid, Robin House Chaplain, shares her experience of working with families from referral to bereavement following the death of a child.
The death of a child can be a taboo subject, however with Good Death Week now upon us, it's a good opportunity to share my experience of working with parents both pre and post bereavement.
Part of my role as chaplain at Robin House is to encourage parents to think about their wishes around end of life care and start a conversation using an Anticipatory Care Plan (ACP). This gives parents the opportunity to think about what they want for their child as they approach end of life. The ACP focuses on the family's priorities, putting them at the centre, identifying what's important to them and their child. In my role as chaplain I look at some of the spiritual and religious needs.
It takes great courage for parents to talk about what they'd like at their child's funeral, however there is often a sense of relief when it is done. I encourage parents to think about completing an ACP for their child so that they can put it to one side knowing that it's done. This then allows them to focus on spending time with their child, creating cherished memories.
Another taboo subject is the physical pain that parents experience following the death of their child. Parents say the physical pain is indescribable. Many parents suffer anger, guilt, hopelessness, depression and isolation. The death of a child can put tremendous stress on marriages and relationships. Everyone grieves differently and different grieving styles can lead to further upset and misunderstanding, exacerbating the pain they already feel.
Every part of a parent's life is impacted by the loss - emotionally, physically and spiritually. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some parents may be angry at God, while others find strength from their religious beliefs. The effects of grief and stress can manifest physically and can cause problems with sleep, concentration and appetite. It can also lower our immune system and make us more vulnerable to illness.
Parents often say the loss of a child can feel isolating. Many people will cross the road to avoid grieving parents because they don't know what to say.
The following are examples of what bereaved parents say following the death of their child:
My role is about having time to listen, to offer support and look after the emotional, spiritual and religious needs of the children, young people, families, staff and volunteers of all faiths and none.
We're here for parents from the moment they and their child are referred to CHAS, through the precious years they have together, and in their bereavement we support families to create moments that are treasured forever. We support the whole family - parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family.