I just want to comment that how your child died has some impact on how you grieve. If your child died after a long illness, you had warning so you could plan to build memories. You had time to say good bye and thank the child for what he has brought to your life. But you had to watch him suffer. There is a lot of pain in the watching. Even when you expect death, it is surprising when it finally does come. All parents talk about this – while expecting it, it comes as a complete surprise. I think this reaction is connected to the fact that we live in a fallen world, but were created for a world where death does not exist. We’re surprised by death every time: one moment the person is alive, and the next they are not. The body is radically different after the soul has left. If your child died suddenly, you didn’t have opportunity to plan or say good bye. Maybe your last words weren’t pleasant words. Maybe there are other regrets: things you would have done differently if you’d had any warning. Maybe your child made some bad choices that contributed to her death –driving too fast, riding with someone who had been drinking, or other choices. You have to grieve all your grief at once.
There are other differences that impact how your grief progresses: • whether there were any human choices in it, such as accidents or drugs • whether there was any violence in it, such as suicide or murder • whether the child was pre-born, or toddler, or just graduated from high school • and other specifics
Here are a few passages of Scriptures that offer some insight from Paul:
…I have been in danger from rivers… in danger from my own countrymen…; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. II Corinthians 11:26b-27
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Philippians 4:11-14
…there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses…, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul says that he’s been in difficult circumstances of many kinds. He’s learned to be content in all circumstances. That contentment comes directly from the grace of Jesus – grace sufficient for any and all troubles. He would say that same grace is sufficient even for the grief of bereaved parents. By the way, Paul also says it’s good for the Philippian people to share in Paul’s troubles. We also think it’s good for bereaved parents to share together with one another, in support groups or some of our other gatherings. We learn from one another and help one another in our weaknesses.