This paper reviews on how the death of child could affect the parents’ psychological well-beings as well as other factors that could influence their daily lifestyles. It is said that some parents might go through a five-stages of grief cycle during their bereavement period. The five stages of grief cycle include the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There are a few short term and long term effects of death of child on child being discussed in this paper. Besides, intervention programmes and their effectiveness were also being mentioned in this paper.
Keywords: death, bereavement, parents
Every parents love their children. Parents would do anything for the sake of their children. However, sometimes, unexpected loss of children could bring a great effect on parents. For example, the death of children. Some parents might go through the grief period for a few years. Death in human is defined as the permanent loss of a person’s life (DeGrazia, 2011). Death is also what people mean by pass away. Death of a child is like losing a part of the parents’ lives. When the parents lose their child, it does not only mean losing a child, but also losing their identity as parents. Every parent would deal with their bereavement period differently. Bereavement is the word being used to describe the condition of grief when a loved one passed away (Christiane, 2005). Some parents would be well prepared to accept the truth while some might just stay in the stage of denial.
According to United States Child Mortality (2007), out of 100000 children in United States, 53287 of the children died in years 2007. A few common causes of death on children are by accidents, cancer, and some developmental disorders that are presented during their birth (Medline Plus, 2007). All these causes are considered as unexpected causes of death. None of the parents would expect their children to pass away at their young age.
It is very common for parents to have mental distress when they have experienced the loss of their loved ones such as their children. It could be a tough period of time for the parents to accept the fact that their children have passed away. Some of them would even stay in stage of denial for a long period of time. The process of grief includes five stages which is also known as the grief cycle. Grief cycle model was introduced by Kubler-Ross in year 1969. This model explains how the individuals go through the process of accepting the fact of death and bereavement as well as how they cope with them.
The first stage in the grief cycle is named as denial. Denial is the condition when a person either consciously or unconsciously refuses to acknowledge the facts or the reality (Kubler-Ross, 1969). Denial is a natural defense mechanism that exists in every individual. An individual could stay at this stage when he or she experiences some traumatic changes that they can ignore. In death, a person might choose to avoid the fact that someone has passed away or going to pass away.
The second stage of grief would be anger. The individuals might get angry once they are informed that someone’s life is going to end (Kubler-Ross, 1969). They might have the thought that why such an incident would happen on themselves or to the person they love. The individuals could express their anger in different ways. Some individuals might get angry at themselves while some may express their anger on others. They might project their anger on others by blaming others’ faults on the unlucky incidents.
The third stage of grief is known as bargaining. This is the stage when the individuals bargain with God and hope that they could get a negotiation to have a longer life span (Kubler-Ross, 1969). When the individuals know the fact that they have limited time to live, they would start to pray or hope that they could have more time to fulfill their dreams or to work on their unfinished business. For example, if the individuals are told that they only have three months left to live, they might negotiate with God by asking for another three months to live so that they could have more time to find the solutions for their problems as well as to spend more time with their friends and family.
The next stage of grief is the state of having depression. It is the stage which the individuals are prepared to have the feeling of grief. At this stage, the individuals are usually emotionally prepared to accept the facts. They might get upset, feel fearful or insecured, and so on. This stage is a sign of the individuals to start accepting the truth (Kubler-Ross, 1969). It is the time for the individuals to adjust their feeling to be emotionally prepared for the worst to come. For example, they could be feeling fearful of losing their loved ones.
The last stage would be the acceptance. This stage indicates that individuals are well prepared for their condition (Kubler-Ross, 1969). The individuals could stay at this stage for a long period of time. They might be readily prepared for loss of one’s life and calmly deal with all the challenges that have in life. Acceptance is a tough stage as the individuals are expected to accept the reality that they are dying or losing someone whom they love.
However, not all individuals would experience all the five stages of grief. It depends on how they interpret the problems and how they deal with them (Kubler-Ross, 1969). Some individuals might skip a few stages and go into acceptance while some may stay in a certain stage for some period of time (Kubler-Ross, 1969). Some individuals might even do not reach the stage of acceptance at the moment they are ending their lives or losing someone. It is possible for the parents to experience either all the five stages of grief or some of them when they are about to lose their child or when they have loss their child.
It is found that parents could develop the mental distress even though their children have passed away for five years. Some parents could even develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the death of their children. However, there is gender difference in the duration of parents to bereave over the death of children. Study shows that women would bereave for a longer period of time as compared to men (Murphy, Johnson, & Lohan, 2002). These mothers are diagnosed to have mental distress such as anxiety and depression. These mothers reported that they have difficulties in making decision and to remember things (Murphy, Johnson, & Lohan, 2002). Mothers are said to score higher scores in PTSD as compared to fathers. Mothers are always those who would have more emotional problems as compared to fathers. This could be due to the fact that females tend to be those who would have higher level of anxiety (Craig, 2005).
Another study stated that parents who have experienced loss of child were found to have higher level of depression, weaker psychological health, and higher level of physical health problems as well as having marital problems as compared to those who did not experience the loss of child (Rogers, Floyd, Seltzer, Greenberg, & Hong, 2008). The parents might get too upset by the death of their child and some may even blame themselves on the death. They might blame themselves for not giving proper care to the children and cause them to pass away. The parents could keep having this thought in their mind and lead them to develop the symptoms of depression. In terms of physical health, because of the bereavement period that the parents are experiencing, they might just give up on their lives and do not take good care of themselves (Rogers, Floyd, Seltzer, Greenberg, & Hong, 2008). They might not take in healthy food and cause them to have poor health. Besides, some parents might blame their partners for not taking proper care of their child and eventually cause their child to pass away. The worst situation could lead to the divorce of both the parents.
The conditions mentioned in the above are the long-term effects on parents with loss of child. Besides those stated in the above, there are a few short-term effects that could take place as well. For example, death of child could affect the job status of the parents (Rogers, Floyd, Seltzer, Greenberg, & Hong, 2008). When the parents experience the loss of child, they would not be able to focus on the job that they’re doing. Most of the time, they would eventually make mistakes and lose attention in their work.
In addition, the social life of the parents would also get affected during the bereavement period (Rogers, Floyd, Seltzer, Greenberg, & Hong, 2008). The parents would try to avoid from the public and do not get involved in any of the social activities. They would try to avoid themselves from participating in the events that could lead them to think of their loss child.
In order to help parents to pass through the bereavement period, interventions could be provided to them. According to Rowa-Dewar (2002), interventions could help to reduce the level of depression in mothers. Effective interventions should be developed in order to help parents to reduce their psychological distress level due to the death of their children.
As the parents are going through the period of bereavement, a chaplain could be introduced to them in order to provide emotional support to the parents. A chaplain plays a role in providing advises and counseling to individuals who need them (World Fellowship Church, 2003). A chaplain is usually being introduced by churches and hospitals. Sometimes, if the families have their own religious leaders, they could be introduced to the parents at this stage as well. A chaplain serves as a person to provide emotional support to the parents. The parents could spend time to express their feeling to the chaplains as well as to discuss on the problems that they have with them.
Besides, support groups could be established for parents who are experiencing the bereavement period. The parents could meet up once in a week to share their feelings with each other. The support group acts as a place for the parents to emotionally help each other rather than calling it a therapy group (YMCA Orange Country, 2012). By attending the support group, the parents are able to obtain emotional support from the other parents, to reduce their depression level, to decrease their feeling of loneliness, to make new friends, to share similar experiences, and also to cope better with the grief process (YMCA Orange Country, 2012). It would be easier for the parents to socialize with each other as they could have the similar experience hence can understand each other better. Most of the time parents do not share their feelings with people who do not have the same experience like them. They often have the thought that others could not understand how upset they are.
Murray (1996), whom is a researcher and psychologist from University of Queensland, developed an intervention for parents who have undergone the death of child and to examine the effectiveness of her intervention. Murray (1996) aimed to use the intervention to reduce the mental distress of the parents. Parents who participated in the intervention reported to have reduced in level of depression and decreased in the feeling of separation as well as better satisfaction towards their marital status as compared to those who did not receive any interventions. Murray (2006) mentioned that in the intervention, mothers found to look for emotional support from many other relationships while fathers tend to depend on their marital relationship. This study indicates that effective interventions are suitable to help the parents who have loss child to recover better from the bereavement period.
In conclusion, there are five stages in the grief cycle, which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Parents who experienced the loss of child could pass through some of these stages. Studies showed that parents could have high level of depression, fearful, and anxiety after the loss of their child. Long-term effects could last for a long period of time. In terms of short term effects, loss of child could affect the parents’ job performance as well as their social lifestyles. In order to help the parents to overcome the bereavement period, interventions could be provided to them. Counsellors, chaplains, and social support group could help the parents to recover from the grief period. It is important to provide emotional support to the parents as they might be psychologically affected severely due to the incidents experienced by them. Physical health is an issue to be focused on as well. This is because parents could neglect their health after the loss of their child. Hence, parents who experience the loss of child should not feel hesitate to seek help from the professionals.