The death of a loved one is one of the most traumatic events that can strike a family. The effects of such a tragedy are long lasting and deep-seated. In fact, some experts say that it is
unlikely that anyone ever fully recovers from the death of a family member. In this paper we will examine the emotional and psychological problems of surviving family members in the aftermath of a death. We will specifically look at the different dynamics of parents' loss of a child and children's loss of a parent or a sibling.
When a child dies, it may be years before the parents can resume normal lives, if, indeed, they ever manage to do so. The extremity of parents' grief is partly due to the fact that we live in a child-centered society, in which parents are preoccupied with child rearing and take great pride in their child's development. In such a society, a child's death seems unnatural and inappro- priate. There is no context into which the parents can place the event, thus making it more difficult to accept and prolonging the grief process. The death of a child represents the loss of a future, with all of its joys and sorrows yet inexperienced, and this causes special problems for the parents (Knapp, 1987, p. 60).
Surviving parents share certain characteristics. First,
they exhibit an overwhelming desire never to forget anything about the child. They develop a need to talk about both the child and their pain, but they may be unable to do so either because they don't want to burden others or because friends and relatives actually aren't willing to listen. Sociologist Ronald J. Knapp notes that, "This inability or refusal to communicate often amplified the emotions and extended them over long periods" (Knapp, p. 62). Furthermore, the longer the silence endures, the harder it becomes for the parents ever to deal with their pain and anger, and the more they begin to fear that everyone has forgot...