Unimaginable loss

In the last few months, I got to know about three sets of young parents who lost their young children (ages eight to twelve) in a sudden way without any pre-warning. Not that any warning can prepare a parent for losing a child. Out of all the human relationships, the love triggered in parents for their children cannot be described or compared to any other form of love experienced in other relationships. The umbilical cord is never cut, and the attachment bond is formed when a parent holds the infant.
Day in and out, parents do their best to fulfill their children’s physical and emotional needs, trying their best to protect them from anything and everything that can threaten the child’s well-being. A child’s love blinds a parent, and the moment the baby is born, a parent develops the reflex of putting his offspring’s needs before his. The joy felt in seeing that little dependent baby grows up into independence and witnessing the child’s different milestones is nothing short of a miracle that a parent loves to experience with every child.
There are hopes and dreams associated with our children, goals, and a sense of purpose and responsibility that drives parents to be the best version of themselves and to do better in every way that could serve the child and inadvertently serve them too. The love and responsibility of a child dominate a parent’s psyche. It operates on autopilot, and despite the occasional fear of anything that can threaten this privileged position, there is also an illusion of permanency where one imagines waking up to a child’s giggles every day.
What does a parent do when they lose a child in a heartbeat? How do they bury what is close to their heart and leave him alone in a dark, gloomy place like a graveyard? How does he learn to function, and what can fill his mind and heart to fill the vacuum of a loss that one does not even wish one’s enemy? To wake up on a regular day and send your child to a school, an afternoon club, or safely tucked in bed and not know that it was the last time you had seen your child. To reset that button in your psyche that automatically puts your child’s face before anything else and figure out how to reset. The grief will never end, or the pain may become dull one day but never stops.
A child’s death is unimaginable because it violates the habitual order where a child is expected to bury a parent. I believe parents who go through this trial need lifelong support to cope with the physical and psychological issues triggered by this loss. Parents have been known to develop physiological problems like heart issues, mental issues like depression and anxiety, and many couples go through marital issues or are at risk of suicide.
These bereaved parents suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Still, other than spiritual support encouraging the parents to see it as God’s will and to strengthen their faith, they are not encouraged to address their mental or physical health. Time is the best healer, but a trauma like this needs immediate attention, and unresolved grief, long tern unaddressed PTSD symptoms, loss of purpose in life, and the psychological impact of chronic stress can have severe implications.
Families of such parents need to encourage them to work on these challenges actively. In this time of loss, it is crucial to address the impact it can have on the overall quality of life of the parents. Unfortunately, in this world we live in, loss is an essential part of human existence, and every day, a child’s life is untimely gone, and there is a set of grieving parents who are lost and disoriented in life.
Their family and friends must support them so that they can once again learn to navigate life. They will likely have a different meaning of life but need minimal internal resources to survive and find a meaning to help them process this unimaginable loss.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool@yahoo.com or her official website.

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