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(As submitted by the Tuscaloosa Chapter of TCF....with editing)

Grief, with its many ups and downs, lasts far longer than society in general recognizes. Be patient with yourself.

Each person's grief is individual. You and your spouse will experience it and cope with it differently.

Crying is an acceptable and healthy expression of grief, and releases built-up tension for mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Strong men DO cry. Cry freely as you fell the need.

Physical reactions to the death of a child may include loss of appetite or overeating, sleeplessness, and sexual difficulties. Parents may find that they have very little eneergy and cannot concentrate. A balanced diet, rest, and moderate exercise are especially important for the whole family at this time.

Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol. Medication should be taken sparingly and only under the supervision of your physician. It is probably best to stay away from tranquilizers and sleeping pills....these can lead to addiction and actually impede the grief process. If your doctor does prescribe them, realize that they are intended for very short periods of use....less than one month. Anti-depressants are effective for those suffering major depression. It is probably best to seek a diagnosis from a psychiatrist rather than from your family physician. A certain amount of depression is to be expected as part of the grief process and will lessen as time passes. Alcohol is of no value to the grief process and in fact, can lead to serious problems. The use of alcohol blocks the natural feelings of grief and prohibits healing.

Friends and relatives may be uncomfortable around you. They want to ease your pain but do not know how. Take the initiative and help them learn how to be supportive to you. Talk about your child so they know this is appropriate. If a particular friend or relative is unable to open up to your grief....seek out those that will.

Whenever possible, put off major decisions (changing residence, job, etc.) for at least a year.

Avoid making hasty decisions about your child's belongings. Do not allow others to take over, or to rush you. You can do it little by little, whenever you feel ready.

Parents may feel they have nothing to live for, and may think about a release from this intense pain. Be assured that many parents feel this way, but that a sense of purpose and meaning does return in time. The pain does not ever go away, but it DOES change. In time the feeling of unbearable pain will turn to bearable sorrow and a measure of joy will return to you life.

Guilt, real or imagined, is a normal part of grief. It surfaces in thoughts and feelings of "if only". In order to resolve this guilt, learn to express and share these feelings, and to forgive yourself. Writing about these feelings is a very effective way of opening to them and resolving the guilt and anger that is otherwise buried in our hearts.

Anger is another common reaction to loss. Anger, like guilt, needs expressing and sharing, in a healthy and acceptable manner. Support groups, like The Compassionate Friends, can be extremely helpful.

Children are often the forgotten grievers within a family. They are experiencing many of the same emotions you are, so share thoughts and tears with them. Though it is a painful time, be sure they feel loved and included.

Holidays, and the anniversaries of your child's birth and death, can be stressful times. Consider the feelings of the entire family in planning how to spend those days. Allow time and space for your own emotional needs.

A child's death often causes a parent to challenge and examine his faith or philosophy of life. Don't be disturbed if you are questioning old beliefs. Talk or write about it. For many, faith offers help inn accepting the unacceptable. You will find that when you seek answers to the questions of faith....your faith will grow.

It helps to become involved with a group of parents having similar experiences. I highly recommend The Compassionate Friends. Sharing eases loneliness and promotes the expression of your grief in the atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.

Bereaved parents and their families can find healing and hope for the future as they reorganize their lives in a positive way.