Overcoming Tragedy: The Death Of Your Child

Letting go of a loved one is never easy, but remembering their love can be the best way to cope.

Overcoming Tragedy: The Death Of Your Child

When we hear tragic news stories, we can't help but picture ourselves and our loved ones placed at the center of such events. The deaths of Audrey Pott in California, Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia and 8-year-old Martin Richard have broken hearts around the world — not to mention the hearts of their parents who are left behind.

Audrey Pott, Rehtaeh Parsons, Martin Richard from the Boston Marathon bombing and others like them should not have their lives reduced to the headlines surrounding their tragic deaths. No one understands this more than their families. These families struggle to preserve their child's memories outside of the spotlight. They don't want the lives summed up and remembered solely by acts of violence. These same parents are the ones that often have to make tough decisions at a time when their hearts are hurting the most and their brains are wracked with answerless questions: "Why did this happen? How could we have done things differently? Could I have prevented his/her death?"


Leading up to this point, you have felt the pain of your child and have often felt helpless in the face of what was going on. You may want to hold on, keeping hope for the life that is no longer there. As a parent, you should not have to face the possibility that you will see the end of your child's life ... but what if you do? Keep reading ...

More love advice from YourTango:

In facing this situation, there are some things that you can do. These things may not take away your pain, but it will help you to be better at peace with the situation.

  • Share memories from your loved one's life with others.
  • Consider what your loved one would want done in a situation like this.
  • Seek out spiritual resources and include things like prayer and song.
  • Consider what your faith group says about life and death, consulting a leader if necessary.
  • Speak to your loved one as if he/she was there — take this opportunity to say the things you wish you could have said.
  • Support and accept support from other people.

In the case of the Pott family, following their daughter's death, they decided to sacrifice their own privacy and use her death as a launching point for their efforts to stop similar events from happening to others. This can be done through formal organizational means (as in the foundation set up by the Pott family).

In the case of the family of Rehtaeh Parsons, her father wanted his daughter to be remembered for "the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life, and the beautiful way in which she lived it." The family chose to allow her death to mean life for others. Her mother reported that through organ and tissue donation, her daughter was able to give life to four other people and sight to a fifth. Knowing that they continue to be giving even in death can be a comfort to the family and can create new memories to add to the other memories you have of their life.

In the case of the Richard family, The Boston Globe shared this photograph of Martin Richard, who was standing near the finish line of the marathon when he was killed in the blast. "We thank our family and friends, those we know and those we have never met, for their thoughts and prayers," he said in a statement. "I ask that you continue to pray for my family as we remember Martin."

Being willing to let go when a loved one is in this state and being willing to allow other things to come out of their death is a great gift that you can give. This is something that only your love for them and the life that they have lived can give. It is not easy, but this type of love can trump the events that have led you to this place. In so doing, as you continue in your grieving process, you can find wholeness and peace.