The loss of a child comes with a degree of indescribable pain and suffering that only a bereaved parent would understand [1]. No one ever expects that they’d have to bury their own child. It doesn’t matter how young or old the child was. It makes no difference if the child was stillborn or lost in a miscarriage. The fact remains that a life created by two people has been lost.

A bereaved parent may move on, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gotten over their irreplaceable loss. They may try to find purpose again, but they’ll wake up every morning and wish their child was still with them. Now words can dull the pain, no gifts or treasures can fold away the grief, but love and support can ease the suffering.

The loss of a child has always been regarded as a universal imbalance. No parent should have to bury their own child. It should be the other way round. The loss of a parent is equally painful, but it’s usually expected that the parent would go before the child. To birth your own flesh and blood and watch them being lowered into the ground is something that cannot be recovered from, but it has to be dealt with. Your child, an angel in heaven, wouldn’t want you to grieve away your soul for them. They’d want you to live on and tell the world about them with a smile on your face.

“Tears are words that need to be written, for Heaven and earth may separate us today, but nothing will ever change the fact that you are mine.”

A physical manifestation of intense grief

Bereaved parents usually suffer the Broken Heart Syndrome, a temporary heart condition usually caused by the painful grief from the death of a loved one or an emotionally traumatic situation [2]. This condition could also be called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy (TCM) or stress-induced cardiomyopathy. It occurs more frequently in women than in men, and mostly in postmenopausal women. Sometimes, if the Broken Heart Syndrome persists, a person can actually die from it. It gets painful enough to cause death.

The syndrome began to gain full recognition in 2005 after it was reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine [3]. Medical practitioners all over the world now diagnose it as a full-fledged, cardiological syndrome.

It mostly manifests in intense angina, shortness of breath, and wrenching pain in the chest area. A person suffering from BHS may think they are having a cardiac arrest or a heart attack.

The actual cause of BHS is not known, but it has been linked to an avalanche of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine) from emotional trauma disrupting the normal functioning of a particular area of the heart [4]. Grief can cause a person’s stress levels to rise to an alarming level, and BHS usually arises under this condition, where you feel as though your heart can’t take it anymore.

BHS can be initiated by the death of a loved one, heartbreak, loss of a job, divorce, abuse, bad news, heated or violent arguments, and any situation that traumatizes a person emotionally.

Symptoms of BHS [5]:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Angina
  • Loss of breath
  • Low blood pressure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Fainting

If the symptoms are severe, call 911 immediately. If they are mild, the victim should still go to the hospital or contact their doctor. Do not try to self-medicate. Seek medical advice immediately. The symptoms usually reverse within a few days and there is no permanent damage done to the heart. However, it can be treated with ACE inhibitors to lower the blood pressure and anti-depressants to manage stress levels [6]. Beta-blockers may also be administered to manage abnormal heart rhythms.

Helpful ways to deal with the loss of your child
There is really no guaranteed method for dealing with the loss of a child, but you can try to cope with it. You can try to manage the grief and get your life back together. You’d always miss and want for your child, but you can try to move on. That’s what your young one would want.

Don’t try to force yourself into getting over it too quickly
You’d only collapse back into it. Let the grief pass through you, but hold onto something or someone so you don’t fall too deeply into the black hole. Many grieving parents have killed themselves due to unbearable pain. A lot more have ended up in mental hospitals. Don’t try to overcome it too forcefully by drowning yourself with work, but don’t let it consume you either. Your child would want to know that their parent is a fighter.

It’s hard, but try to let it out
You can talk to someone to keep your heart afloat. It’s never easy opening up. Sometimes, all you’d want is to be alone, but this could be harmful. Try to join a support group to walk you through the stages of grief, holding your hand as you move through the surge of emotions. Connect with your partner, family, and friends. Book sessions with a therapist or a counselor. Opening up is really helpful.

Immortalize your child
You can grow a garden in remembrance of your beloved child, or plant white roses or lilies in the front yard for them. You could donate to a children’s charity or help orphaned kids in their memory. You could set up a shrine for them in your home, filling it with lovely stones, crystals, and precious items to keep their memory alive. Doing these would enable you to come to terms with the loss. You’d be able to accept that even though they cannot be with you physically, they’d always have a place in your life and in your heart.

Light a candle for your beloved one and blow kisses to the sky. May the souls of all departed children rest in eternal bliss, and may they always remain shining stars in the sky.

References:

  1. Broken Heart Syndrome“, A Bed for my Heart. May, 2019.
  2. “‘Broken-heart syndrome’… Be aware…“, PMC. March, 2016.
  3. The ‘broken heart’ syndrome“, PMC. September, 2007.
  4. Broken Heart Syndrome“, Mayo Clinic.
  5. Broken Heart Syndrome“, Cleveland Clinic.
  6. Broken Heart Syndrome: Management and Treatment“, Cleveland Clinic.
  7. An Open Letter To Parents Who Have Lost A Child“, Huff Post. September, 2016.
  8. The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss“, Psych Central. February, 2019.
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