The approaching death of a child is likely to be the most difficult time in any parent’s life. Children are supposed to outlive their parents, not the other way around…
Dealing with your child’s cancer is all-consuming; it drains you and the rest of your family – of strength, of vitality, of joy, of finances, and leaves one feeling helpless and hopeless much of the time.
Many parents feel that, even though they have already been given the prognosis and know that their child is dying, to acknowledge it means that they are giving up… Other families feel that they need to get their affairs in order…
Everyone is different and copes in their own way – there is really no right or wrong way to cope with the impending death of a child – you just need to cope in whichever way feels right for you and your family, no matter what anyone else may think or say.
It is often believed that difficult times can bring a family together and make the family unit stronger, but hardships can also create divisions. This sometimes happens if one parent has been more involved in their child’s care, which could mean that they are further along with the various stages of understanding and preparation than the other parent.
Dealing with the trauma of a child with an incurable disease is difficult, and individuals can go through various stages of disbelief, anger, understanding, acceptance and preparation. It is individual though, and does not always occur in the manner that we would expect.
How Can I Prepare Myself?
Previous personal experiences of death may have been very different from the enormity of losing a child, but they could also help you to recognise ways you coped before that may help you now.
It is important that you try to see things not only from your point of view, but also from the perspective of your child, their siblings, and your spouse. There may come a time when you will be left alone with your thoughts, and many parents in this position have found it helpful to talk or write about their feelings, and have said that planning what to do and say gave them some purpose and direction.
While your child is still undergoing treatment, a day-to-day existence is all that many parents can cope with,but this can change as circumstances change. When the time comes that treatment is stopped and the doctors inform you that there is nothing more that they can do, it can become a momentous struggle to just get through each hour.
Some parents find that suddenly everything is very different and their values change; all that is important is that they are able to give their dying child love and comfort. Other parents experience nightmares and dreams about their child’s death; whether they are strong enough, and whether they will manage to cope- these feelings could be your subconscious, rehearsing and preparing you for what lies ahead.
Read more on our page, Preparing for your Child’s Death