We, the staff of Michigan Medicine, wish to extend our condolences on the loss of your child. This section of our website is intended to provide supportive information about experiencing grief.
This page is intended to provide information and support for the death of a child in the hospital. For information about the death of an adult, visit Grief Support Following the Death of a Loved One on UofMHealth.org. For support following pregnancy loss, visit Loss of a Desired Pregnancy on the Von Voigtlander Women's site.
Mourning the loss of your child will likely be the hardest thing you will ever face. Your emotions are raw. Your heart aches. You are shaken to the core. You have spent endless hours loving worrying about, comforting and nurturing your child, but these hours may feel like they were not enough. It may seem that you will never smile or feel like yourself again. Yet there may be pressure for you to put on a “mask” and go about your daily duties trying to hide your pain and grief. Our Upon the Death of Your Child book is available for download and contains information and support about living with grief.
“Grieving is as natural as crying when you are hurt, sleeping when you are tired, eating when you are hungry. It is nature’s way of healing a broken heart.” – Doug Manning
Initial Grief Reactions
Be patient. Grief reactions come and go, and can show up over many months and years. Most grief reactions begin to soften over time though bereaved parents honestly share that as a parent, you never “get over” the loss of your child. Over time though, you do learn to adjust to life without the physical presence of your child and begin to focus more on the joy the child brought to your life than on the immense sorrow their death has brought. Every person’s timeline is different. A multitude of emotions may be experienced including:
Physical Symptoms of Grief
Typically, these symptoms diminish over time:
- Change in appetite, either overeating or undereating
- Low energy level or fatigue, even when there has been no physical activity
- Stomach upset or headaches
- Sleep disturbance, either sleeping a lot or inability to fall asleep
Ways to Cope
(Adapted from Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: J. William Worden)
When it is Necessary to Seek Additional Support
If you are experiencing thoughts or feelings that include the following:
- Life isn’t worth living
- Wish you had died with your loved one
- Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
- Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
- Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss
- Are unable to perform your normal daily activities
If you are experiencing any of these emotional and physical responses, and they become extremely difficult, unbearable, intrusive or are hindering your ability to function on a daily basis, please connect with your doctor, mental health provider, or spiritual leader and let them know how you are feeling. They can assist you in addressing your grief. You may also contact Michigan Medicine Depression Center at 734-936-4400 or the Psychiatric Emergency Room of your local hospital.
Michigan Medicine Psychiatric Emergency Services is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be reached at 734-936-5900. If you do not live near Michigan Medicine, you can call your local Emergency Room or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Office of Decedent Affairs (ODA) is part of the Michigan Medicine Department of Social Work. The ODA is the centralized point of contact at Michigan Medicine for ongoing questions and concerns before, during, and after the death of a loved one. To contact the Office of Decedent Affairs, call 734-232-4919 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may also email the ODA office at SocWk-ODA@med.umich.edu.