Navigating Grief and Loss: Resources and Support for Families Experiencing Child Loss
Child loss is a devastating experience that affects many families, but it is often not discussed in our culture, making it difficult for families to find support. The loss of a child can come in many forms, including miscarriage, stillbirth, or losing a child at any age due to illness or accident. Regardless of the cause, the following grief is overwhelming and can feel never-ending. Despite how common child loss is, many families feel isolated in their grief because it is not a topic that is frequently discussed.
Resources for Support: Finding Community and Healing After Child Loss
Many resources are available to help families navigate grief and mourning, including Reimagine events. Reimagine festivals and events bring together individuals and families who have experienced loss, including child loss, to honor and remember their loved ones. Families can share their stories at these events and connect with others who understand their pain. Through participating in these events, many families have found a sense of community and support they had been missing.
A signature Reimagine program, Reimagine hosts free monthly candlelight vigils for a national online community to explore mortality, mourn anyone (and anything) we have lost, and celebrate all we have. Through these vigils, Reimagine creates a brave space to process life together through a unique honoring ceremony, music, storytelling, and small group discussions. These vigils provide a space for people to come together and honor the memories of their loved ones. They also allow people to connect with others who understand their pain and offer support.
In addition to Reimagine events, many online support groups and counseling services are available for families who have experienced child loss. Grief and loss support groups are often led by trained professionals and provide a space for people to share their feelings and experiences. Talking with a therapist specializing in grief and loss can also provide families with the support they need to process their emotions and begin to heal. Counseling services can provide a safe and supportive space for grief and the beginning of healing.
Bereavement Care at GMCH
George Mark Children’s House (GMCH), located in San Leandro, California, the first freestanding pediatric palliative care center in the United States, is launching a six-week Bereavement Support Group for its families. To ensure privacy, establish trust, and foster a safe space to discuss grief, the group is designed to serve no more than 10 participants.
The virtual pilot program will be led by GMCH’s Medical Social Worker, Cindy Field and Chaplain, Leo Keegan. Each week, the group will meet to discuss the components of grief, grieving styles, coping strategies and how to express needs during their healing, providing a supportive place to share memories and feelings without judgment. As Cindy states, “It’s important for people to know that as they walk through their grief, it is their right to receive care.”
The GMCH Bereavement Support Group provides the foundation for parents who have experienced the profound loss of losing a child, to come together, thus continuing the legacy of the children of George Mark.
To learn more about George Mark Children’s House, please visit www.georgemark.org.
Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Positive Changes in the Struggle of Grief
One theory related to child loss and other traumatic events or life adversities, in general, is post-traumatic growth. It is a term coined to describe the positive changes that can result from the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances, including grief and loss. It is a way of viewing grief as a transformative and constructive experience and can lead to multiple positive outcomes, including:
Appreciation of life
Relationships with others
New possibilities in life
Recent research has shown these five steps to post-traumatic growth increase well-being and flourishing after a diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, a trauma, or any other life challenge:
Education about post-traumatic growth
Sharing your story in a safe community
New narrative development
Acts of service; positive actions; new creations
Post-traumatic growth can be a difficult concept for some people to understand, especially for those who are still in the early stages of grief. However, it is important to remember that healing is not a linear process and that everyone's journey is different. For some people, post-traumatic growth may not occur for months or even years after the loss of a child.
It's important to remember that post-traumatic growth is not guaranteed for everyone who experiences loss. It is a process that takes time and requires effort. Grief and healing are personal journeys, and it is important to remember that there is no “right” way to grieve.
Remembering That You Are Not Alone in Your Grief Journey
In conclusion, child loss is a common but taboo topic in our culture, and families need to know that they are not alone in their grief. Many resources, including Reimagine events, online support groups, and counseling services, are available to help families navigate the grief and mourning process. Post-traumatic growth can also play a role in moving forward after such a loss, providing a new perspective, stronger relationships, and a sense of purpose. The importance of support and community for families who have experienced child loss cannot be overstated. We encourage readers to seek out resources for support and healing. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Grief is a process that is unique to each individual, and it is important to find the resources and support that will help you through it.
Additional resources on miscarriage and child loss from Reimagine community members:
A Ritual to Mourn Miscarriage and Infant Death by Rabbi Syndey Mintz - Rubin Museum of Art
About Reimagine: Reimagine is a non-profit on a mission to help all people face adversity, loss, and mortality and channel the hard parts of life into meaningful action and growth. Learn more here.