Surviving a Child’s Death – How to Cope With Grief and Depression

Is there anything worse than surviving your child’s death? It’s heartbreaking — unbearable.

These tips for coping with grief and depression are inspired by a reader who asked, “How do I help my parents grieve the loss of their child, who was my brother?” He wants to help his parents cope with grief and depression. He recently lost his sibling to an illness; his parents are having a hard time dealing with their grief.

Here’s part of his question:

“I read 5 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend…and I would really like to help my mom and need some help. I don’t know what to do…he was my only brother, and usually we were fighting, and I regret all the things I said and the things I didn’t say. Please give me some advice so I can help my mom feel better.”

Below are the suggestions I gave him for helping his parents survive a child’s death and cope with death and depression, which may apply to many adults grieving the loss of a sibling. For more information for bereaved children and parents, click I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One.

Surviving a Child’s Death – Coping With Grief and Depression

Remember that you can’t erase grief or the mourning process. You can’t make your mom or dad happy or change how they’re dealing with their loss. This may be hard to hear, but your parents will be in a lot of pain for a long time. You have to let them grieve their loss in their own way, and accept that they’re facing the worst thing a parent can face: the death of a child. Read Mourning a Lost Child for some insight into how mothers feel after a death – go to the comments section for words from mothers who are mourning. This may help you understand how your bereaved parents feel, and may also give you ideas about how to help them.

Talk to a grief counselor, or join a grief support group. After the shock has worn off a little and the memorial service or celebration of life is over, think about joining a grief support group or talking to a grief counselor. One of the best ways to cope with grief and depression because of loss is to find people who have experienced the same thing.

Gather information about grief and bereavement. Read books about families who have lost siblings and children, such as the book above. Go to your library and bookstore (or visit Amazon), and look for books that “speak” to you. There are many books about coping with death and depression; you need to find a few that you can relate to. Find a couple of books for your parents, too, about grieving the loss of a child.

Be helpful in practical ways. Make your parents’ lives easier in practical ways: cooking, doing the laundry, cleaning, driving them around, and giving them lots of hugs (especially your mom!). Ask what you can do to help them. As far as them not eating (this reader’s parents haven’t been eating since they lost their son); that can be part of the grieving process. They’ll eat again. It’s just hard for them to feed their bodies when their hearts are breaking. They’re mourning; it’s a very painful but normal process. It’s healthy for them to express their grief, perhaps by withdrawing, crying, or sleeping a lot.

Manage your feelings of guilt for moving on. When you eat, laugh, go back to work or school, or otherwise get on with your life, try not to feel guilty. It’s hard to believe now, but you will start to heal and move past this loss…you will laugh again, feel good again, and enjoy life again. You have to let yourself – and your parents – go through the process of coping with death and depression without trying to change the way you feel. You’ll eventually come out on the other side. It may be especially difficult over the holidays; read 5 Tips for Dealing With Grief During the Holidays.

Believe that you did the best you could as a sibling. You were the best brother or sister you could be. You may have fought and aggravated the heck out of each other, but that’s normal for siblings! You fought because that’s what siblings do!  Don’t replay the “if only” scenarios…because you can only see clearly when you’re looking back in time. Remember what you did right with your brother or sister; focus on the times that you and your brother connected. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.

Express your feelings of grief and depression. It can be healthy and good to look for answers on the Internet. It’s very important to share how you feel and ask for help and support. Looking outward for answers – such as through online grief support groups or forums – as well as inward can help you cope with death.

Life will never be the same after the loss of a sibling. You’ll never be the same, and neither will your parents. The death of a brother or sister will change you forever – but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your happiness or your life as you know it! There is room in your life for sadness and loss, as well as happiness and joy. Right now, you’re going through the dark sadness…and one day, you will feel good again.

For more tips on helping bereaved children and parents cope, read 5 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend Deal With Death.

You may also find Letting Go of Someone You Love helpful.

If you have any questions or thoughts about surviving a child’s death, please comment below…

Before You Go...

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Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
I'm a full-time freelance writer and blogger in Vancouver, BC. I created the "Quips and Tips" blog series; my degrees are in Education, Psychology, and Social Work. I welcome your comments below, but I don't give advice. I can offer you a prayer and a blessing, though! You'd be surprised how helpful a prayer can be....

5 Responses

  1. Sheri,

    Thank you for sharing your registry here; I’m sure it has help many parents who are surviving their child’s death, and coping with the grief and depression that follows. It sounds like a wonderful way to connect and find support.


  2. Sheri Perl says:

    It’s agonizing to lose a child. I lost my son Danny on July 1, 2008 to an overdose. He was 22. In dedication to him I formed The Prayer Registry for parents who have lost children.

    This free website service is dedicated to all of the families who have lost children, whatever age that child was when they passed. This site registers the anniversary day of our children’s crossing. The members of this online community, the Prayer Team, have the opportunity to honor their child’s legacy and connect with other bereaved parents to participate in world-wide group prayer for every registered loved one on the anniversary day of their passing. To learn more see my website:

    To register a child for prayer, email Sheri at I need only your child’s full name along with the date that he or she passed to ensure that your child receives prayer every year on the anniversary day of his or her passing.

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:


    Thanks for your comment, and I’m so sorry to hear about your son. That’s very sad — but exciting that he’s communicating with you in many ways! I know your blog will inspire, comfort, and help people who have lost their loved ones.

    I hope to meet up with you again in cyberspace… :-)


  4. Elisa Medhus says:

    I find your blog both insightful and comforting. My son recently committed suicide and has communicated with us in many ways. This inspired me to write a blog as well: Channeling Erik: Conversations with my Son in the Afterlife. ( It is my hope that, with the help of a talented medium, a book can come of this. The goal would be to, with Erik’s help, elucidate and demystify the death process, the nature of the afterlife, the survival of consciousness after death, reincarnation, how thought creates reality, and the quantum physics behind all of it, among other spiritual matters. I hope to help those who are bereaved, those who fear death, and those who are curious to understand the bigger picture. Healing others seems to be important to my own healing process. Please keep up the good work. Your wisdom is sorely needed I a word that years for spirituality and a deeper understanding. xoxo Elisa

  5. Susan K. says:

    Thank you for writing this.

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