Is Grieving Different When You Lose An Adult Child Vs A Small Child?

My partner and I lost our young and beautiful  adult daughter , she was just 23 yo a Uni student. I thought I will write a letter to a  Mental Health Councillor Emma and get her reply on few queries I had about my daughter’s Untimely death.

One, believe it or not, is that people say, “Well you’ve had them so much, lucky you had it for so long” to the parent who lost an adult kid. Cruel without thought.

My queries were 

  1. Is Grieving Different When You Lose An Adult Child Vs A Small Child?
  2. Why there are not much written about adult child demise that can help us come through the sadness

Response from Emma was :

It does not mater  if you are 80 or 40, your child should not go before you. It is a very short time since September and we encourage you to be gentle with yourself – get plenty of rest and do what you need to do to take care of you. Grieving is hard work and takes a great deal of energy.

Losing a kid — at any age – violates the laws of nature. 

It is not appropriate for parents to bury their children. The sadness and loss are unfathomable, shattering, and all-encompassing. Every relationship evolves, the family structure shifts, and there is always an empty seat at the table

Dr. Emma

Our 23 year old  daughter died in Sept 2021 and I have been trying to deal with our grief. I came across your grief blog recently and am pleased to be able to have access to someone with your background. In trying to find books and websites to help me, I am finding that there is only one “category” called child to talk about the grief a parent feels.

Do you think that the grief and grieving is the same for the loss of a child versus an adult?

I believe it is different and I am looking for help for the loss of an adult daughter

Thank you for your input.

Div & Manny

Dr. Emma Responds

Dear Div & Manny

We are so very sorry for your loss. It is hard to lose a child at any age and losing a daughter that you have loved for 23 years leaves a big gap in your life.

And you are right – there is little written about losing an adult child. I think the problem is that the world doesn’t recognize how difficult it is to lose an adult child.

Any kid’s death, regardless of the cause or age, is overwhelming for parents, who can never be entirely prepared for their child to die before them. Parental bereavement is profound, long-lasting, and complicated.

We will post your letter on the blog, together with our response because we feel it will be a help to many, many of our visitors.

For all grieving parents, sorrow and the healing process are comparable, but for those whose adult child has died, there are extra variables that may impact their mourning. 

Others frequently believe that because the kid who died was an adult, the parents’ sorrow is less intense than if the child was a toddler. When a parent’s adult child dies, their grief is sometimes dismissed or denied.

Grief and mourning can be especially tough for parents when an adult child dies. Because their child is considered an adult, the loss should be less severe and have less of an impact on his or her parents. 

Even the most well-meaning people sometimes forget that when a friend’s spouse dies, that guy was also someone’s son. His mother, father, and relatives are all in mourning.

Grief and mourning are complicated for parents who have lost an adult child.

Ms. Emma

Psychiatrist Melbourne Australia

Ash Vohra memorial

What Are the Different Kinds of child Loss?

One of the most terrible aspects of loss is that it is very much permanent. Our lives as humans are so fluid that the concept of permanency can be difficult to understand. 

Predictable losses, such as those caused by terminal disease, allow us to plan for the loss, but they also generate two levels of pain. Anticipatory sorrow (grief associated with the expectation of loss) and loss-related grief

Sudden Losses are losses that occur as a result of an accident, a crime, or a suicide, and they leave us with little time to prepare. These kinds of losses frequently upset us to our core, calling into doubt the stability of existence. 

Initially Following Your adult child’s Death: When your adult child dies, it appears that all significance has been taken from your life. It’s tough to get out of bed in the morning, let alone live a “regular” life. 

Everything that was once right with the world now appears to be wrong, and you’re wondering when, or if, you’ll ever feel better.

We’ve been there and understand some of the anguish you’re experiencing right now.  

My partner and I lost our young 23 yo daughter recently and our sadness is enormous. We are trying to cope with it. 

We are delighted that you have discovered us, but we are really disturbed by the cause. 

We understand that you are attempting to find your way through a perplexing situation for which no one can really prepare.

When you are freshly lost your adult child, you are thrown into an emotional whirlwind with no idea what to anticipate next. 

Adult Child Loss Vs. Small Kid Loss

Many parents saw that the relationship with their adult kid has become like a friend. Parents think they’ve lost not just their child, but also a friend, often their closest friend.

The relationship between parents and elderly children develops naturally over time from parents to adult children.

Parents who loved, raised and encouraged the growth of their children into maturity and their whole lives will experience satisfaction and success after their adult child completes school.

Parents in their children have made a considerable emotional and financial investment as they mature.

If this existence does not endure for the projected period, a sensation of abandonment is usually combined with total futility.

Parents often wonder their own purpose in their lives since all they’ve spent in their child seems to be in vain.

A child’s death is a “out-of-order” death. Normally, the parent dies firs and when normalcy is interrupted, Parents may have survivor guilt, wondering why their kid died while they remain. 

There may be a sense of unfairness that calls spiritual beliefs into question.

If a parent had little control over the burial rites of their Adult child or if the rituals were meaningless to them, he or she may desire to assemble his or her own friends for a ritual. 

Disregarded sorrow when someone losses their adult kid

People often say things such as “well, at least you had  xy years with him/her” in the name of consolation. 

Such remarks indicate, rather than sad, that their child has died, that the mourning parent should appreciate the time with his youngster.

If an adult child of a parent dies as a result of an accident or illness, friends or family members generally say that they should be appreciative to their child for living as long as he or she has.

You are, of course, grateful that you have had your child twenty or thirty years or even more in certain circumstances, but your loss does not become any worse.

Bereavement with your Adult Child’s Spouse/Partner/Children:

Dealing with your own sadness when your adult kid  dies, you may have to deal with your adult child’s spouse or the kids. Most often , an adult child will  have a spouse or partner as well as children.

The focus of the care and grief will be on them, rather than the parent.

This is excruciating. The loss of an adult child can sometimes have an impact on other relationships. 

Contact between the parent and the grandkids may be severely limited, or ties with the bereaved spouse or grandchildren may become distant or strained. Family gatherings may appear to be different now.

Grandchildren will need to be consoled in order to relieve stress on the spouse or partner.

This is frequently left to grandparents, which is taxing for parents who are already mourning.

Parents will also be concerned about who will care for them after their child is no longer alive.

When a partner of adult child dates or remarries, you may experience more grief

Following a bereavement, the widow or widower will frequently restart some form of relationship with someone else.

If there are children, the parents of the dead adult child will very certainly be a part of the new life with the new partner.

This is sometimes a joyous event, and sometimes it isn’t. Whether or whether the connection with the new spouse is pleasant, the sadness is frequently repeated as the loss is felt as life moves on.

How to Cope with the Death of an Adult Child:

So, how do parents deal with such a loss? What can people do to help? First and first, it is essential to affirm a parent’s grief—to acknowledge that the death of a child, regardless of age or circumstances, is always a horrifying tragedy. 

Support is essential. Seeking counselling or joining a support group may be beneficial. Compassionate Friends, for example, is a support organisation for parents who have lost a child.

Talk to people who adore you and make you feel good about yourself. Lean on those who love and care for you.

Don’t expect yourself to “get over it very soon” Going through the phases of grief is the only way to “get over” a loss. 

There’s no need to strive to be the strong one; simply allow yourself to feel as you feel.

Make a note of it. Writing out how you’re feeling can sometimes assist to clarify those sentiments and help you grieve your loss. 

Please do not hesitate to utilise Band Back Together to share your difficulties and tales.

Allow yourself to mourn the loss. Going through the phases of grieving is the only way to get over a loss. You can’t avoid it, no matter how much you try. Acknowledge and sit with your emotions.

Speak with a therapist or grief counsellor – someone who has been trained to assist you in working through your grief.

Exercise: Run, Gym or Yoga- Exercise produces endorphins, which are the “feel-good” chemicals.

Don’t downplay your own loss. If there was a loss, there was a loss. Losses are supposed to be mourned.

Don’t compare your loss to the losses of others. It’s a case of apples and oranges. You experience a loss in the way that you feel it, not in the way that someone else feels it.

Make careful to look after yourself. Perform your regular hygiene rituals, then get up and do something.

Take good care of yourself: When you are mourning, it is easy to ignore yourself. Remember to eat healthily, sleep on a regular schedule, and get some exercise outside.

Share your emotions: Discuss about your child, your grief, and your rage. Create a diary. Create a blog. Post your thoughts in there! Get your emotions out.

Be patient and kind: Be kind with yourself. Allow yourself to grieve while simultaneously allowing yourself to have fun. Some tasks will require more time and effort than others, so be patient. Healing will not happen overnight.

Surround yourself with memories: You have a lifetime of them. Put them in a box and store them in the attic. Make sure you have photos and reminders around. It’s hard at times, but seeing their face, happy and healthy, is therapeutic.

This is especially essential if your child had a terminal disease and was nearing the end of their life in a hospital or hospice facility. You want to remember them as the happy, lively, and cheerful person they were.

Participate in a support group or consult a counsellor: Many locations provide support groups for a variety of diseases and reasons of death.

Churches and hospitals are two of the most prevalent types of structures. Support groups are excellent tools for recognising that you are not alone in your suffering. 

You will learn and heal from other people’s compassion, and they will heal from your support.

Allow others to assist you. When others ask what you require, don’t be afraid to tell them. People want to assist; they just don’t know how.

Remember the happy and bad moments with your Adult Child. Don’t spend all of your time thinking about your child’s death or how he or she died; recall the good times as well.

Accept your inability to be okay. You’ll most likely have doubts about your religion. It’s your life. You’ll ponder whether you could have averted your child’s death. These are common — and often difficult – obstacles to overcome. Don’t expect to be OK for a long time following the loss.

Find a therapist who specialises in bereavement; this might be your lifeline to regaining control of your life. 

Things will never be the same again, but that’s okay. In due course. On an individual basis, a counsellor may be able to assist you in working through certain aspects of your grief.

Author’s Note:

On Friday 3rd September 2021 , my family’s life changed when we lost our beloved daughter (24 yo), Ash. Ash was a healthy young girl doing her Bachelors in Science( Swinburne University) and Living in her Uni apartment in Melbourne City.

Saying goodbye to Ash is difficult, but the days, weeks and months that are coming will be  even more difficult, as we navigated grief, adjusted to living without an important member of the family and made decisions regarding her ashes & memorial.

This is why I have created blogs, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with adult child loss.

Div & Manny
Loving Parents of Ash

Div & Manny – Lifestyle Bloggers