Addressing the issue of circumstances surrounding death, the cause of death influences the effect that it will have on the parent. If a child dies as a result of somebody’s fault, the death the emotions associated are those of anger and desire to revenge. This is mostly the case where a child dies from neglect at the hospital while undergoing treatment, death by murder, assault among others. The parent may feel that their child never deserved to die and this can greatly affect their lives for a long time more so where the parents embark on finding justice for their child.
A child who dies out of drug use or suicide is likely to cause a feeling of anger in the parent and at certain times a feeling of guilt. The feeling of being less competent as a parent and not giving the care that was required to prevent the death of the child could haunt their souls forever and such parents may not easily adapt to the loss they have suffered. A study conducted by Arnold (2006) also indicates that death of children can cause various effects on the family including strain in the marriage relationship especially where one parent blames the death of the child on the other often resulting in divorce.
Recovery of a parent from death is said to be a continuing process that evolves with time (Arnold, 2008). The presence of family support to the grieving parents serves to accelerate the healing process. Parents being adults are likely to get through the effects of death better than children who lose their parents. This is due to the experience that the parent could have had with other members of the family and friends and have thus had experience in coping with death (Keesee, 2008).
However, this is not always so because as Keesee (2008) found out, parents who have dealt with death many times are likely to be more affected by grief due to the feeling commonly known as ‘why me? ‘ This is where a person suffers many losses until he or she cannot understand why they all have to happen to him or her in particular. For example a person who loses several family members is likely to pile up grief such that another loss could easily break him. Apart from life history, parent’s reactions are influenced by religion, beliefs and cultures that surround death.
Some believe spiritual power gives them the ability to endure death and that if it is creator’s wish then they have to accept it as it comes. The belief in life after death is an influence on how parents react to children’s death with such parents gaining comfort that they will still see their children once their life on earth is over. To a child, a parent plays a significant role in his or her life and their presence is highly dear to him or her. The warmth and care provided by a parent influences psychological development as well as emotional regulation.
Elimination of this person who commands great influence in a child’s life by death is therefore one thing that many children who lose their parents have not been able to live with. The effects are even worse if the child is still dependent on the parent for survival. Younger children may fail to understand why their parents are no longer with them and this brings about the feeling of abandonment which can affect the child emotionally Mireault and Bond, 1992). Children just like parents react differently towards the death of their parents.
What makes the reactions more emotional and severe among children is not only because they are emotionally attached to their parents but also because death of a parent may cause uncertainty in children with questions on how they are going to survive after that. The perceived change in supply of resources, change of neighborhoods and increased responsibility if the children have to take care of their siblings is overwhelming (Khoshaba and Maddi, 1999). The age of the child at the time of the parent’s death will influence the effect that the tragedy has on the child as well as their level of acceptance and adaptability to the loss.
The circumstances of death largely determine the reaction of the child towards the death of a parent. Children who lose their parents through fatal tragedies are more likely to be traumatized by their death and consequently they may develop hallucinations and mental depression. Death of a parent in the early stages of life could have far reaching consequences on a child than when the parent dies when the child is of age. Leuken et al (2009), notes that the early death of a parent impacts highly on the child’s emotional development due to the detachment of the parent-child bond.
It is at this early age that the child needs their parents the most and death only acts as a deterring factor to such arrangements. Children develop special bonds with their parents due to their upbringing and the role the parents have played in their lives. They therefore feel indebted to them and want the best for them which makes them go to large extents of taking care of them once they get to their old age. When they eventually die, it brings about emotional turmoil and distress that is incomparable (Feldman et al, 1999).