Just read the book “Why My Child? A Clinical Guide for Helping Parents Survive the Sudden Death of a Child” by Stephanie A. Carson (published by Tate Publishing). She is a marriage and family therapist who specializes in helping parents who have suffered the sudden traumatic loss of a child. This would be from accident, suicide or murder. The book is meant to help other therapists and counselors to treat parents and couples who have lost a child, and includes detailed blueprint for a theraputic workshop. I was impressed by her insight into how the violent death of a child affects the parents. A good resource, I think, for those who are interested in this subject.
Here are a few quotes from the book, to give you and example of her thinking:
“When a child dies, a part of the parent dies as well. No answer is ever ‘good enough’ to explain the reason for the child’s death, which leaves bereaved parents feeling severely victimized.”
“Due to factors such as the untimelimess of death, guilt, and the loss of meaning, parents who have lost a child rarely make a full return to their levels of functioning prior to their child’s death.”
“In our society, there is a tendency to believe that people who are murdered have, in some way, ‘asked for it.’ In the case of adolescents, the common assumption is that the teenager was involved with drugs or was part of a gang. In the case of young children, the stigma is usually extended to the parents, who are accused of not providing adequate parental care or appropriate supervision. Families of murdered children are also stigmatized for not having stopped the behavior that led to the death, and oftentimes they are attacked for not having seen the traumatic outcome in store for their child. It is this stigmatization and emotional distancing of others that leaves parents of murdered children feeling ashamed, abandoned, powerless, and vulnerable.”
“As if dealing with the murder of one’s own child isn’t painful enough, bereaved parents must also deal with law enforcement officials, criminal justice practitioners, media personnel, medical examiners and others after the murder. Many parents describe their interaction with these systems as being a secondary victimization more severe than the original trauma of a child’s murder. Oftentimes, there is a lack of respect and an invasion of privacy by the legal and criminal justice systems, leaving the parents feeling as if they are the ones on trial instead of the murderer who stole their child from them forever.”
“The sudden loss of a child is one of the most traumatic events that can occur in one’s adult life. It leaves the bereaved parent feeling sad, confused, dstraught, angry, abandoned, overwhelmed, devastated, guilty and upset. In addition, the bereaved parent is often left to face the complex grieving process alone since society is too afraid to get involved in such a tragic event. In short, the bereaved parents are not only experiencing the death of their child, but they are experiencing the death of the world they once knew and loved.”
This is a person who really does “get it”, and that is very rare. At least, it feels rare to those of us who have lost a child to violence. The loss of a child is hard whatever the circumstances, but the parents of murdered children have special needs. It’s hard to accept the idea that someone deliberately took away the life of your child, and pat phrases like “He’s in a better place,” “She’s no longer suffering,” or “It was the will of God,” don’t bring us any comfort, as they might for a parent who lost a child after a long illness.
I applaud the author for choosing to specialize in such a difficult area. It can’t be easy to deal with so much pain and despair.