The Death of a Child: Understanding the Grief Facing Charlie Gard’s Parents by Jessica Firger
I don’t think most people, Christians above all, have a handle on how to minister to someone who is in grief. It’s a topic I wish were covered more often on spiritual abuse type blogs.
The following editorial focuses on the loss of an infant, but I think a lot of the advice the expert gives is applicable to about anyone who has suffered loss, regardless of the age.
The Death of a Child: Understanding the Grief Facing Charlie Gard’s Parents
This week, Connie Yates and Chris Gard said goodbye to their son, Charlie Gard. On Thursday, a judge of the British High Court ruled the 11-month-old, who had been suffering from an extremely rare and untreatable genetic disorder known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, should be taken off life-support and moved into a hospice facility. He died the next day.
The story of the young boy has stirred up an international and contentious debate about the limits of hospice and end-of-life care.
…Newsweek spoke with Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, a grief counselor whose area of expertise is traumatic death, particularly that of children. Cacciatore is professor of psychology at Arizona State University and founder of the MISS Foundation, a nonprofit that provides social support services to families grieving loss.
Although Cacciatore has published more than 60 papers on the subject of bereavement and traumatic death, her expertise is also firsthand. More than two decades ago, she lost her daughter, Cheyanne, at birth.
What makes grieving the loss of an infant different from grieving an older child?
The death of a child at any age and from any cause is life-changing for parents. It’s always extremely painful. What makes the death of a young baby different is that often the family grieves alone.
Very few people knew the child intimately other than the parents.
And because babies are, of course, highly dependent on the parent for care, such a death is different in some important and really painful ways. Many parents who experience the death of a baby feel a tremendous sense of responsibility for their baby’s death.
….Does the bereavement process become easier over time for parents that find themselves in these circumstances?
I’m not a fan of the idea of “recovery,” because I don’t think we ever recover from a catastrophic loss. But the grief can become lighter. I try to teach people how to carry it, how to turn toward it, and how to stay connected to the child who died. We need space and people to remember with us in nonjudgmental ways.