How do I get over the pain of unexpectedly losing my 30 year-old daughter?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My 30 year-old daughter died unexpectedly, although she fought major illness throughout her life. She leaves an eight-month-old child. How can I get past this incredible pain? I keep yelling at God.

Expert Answer

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

There are those who say that the loss of a child is the most difficult of all, so it makes sense that you are experiencing incredible pain. In fact, most grieving parents would probably say that you never completely get past a pain like this.

The challenge is to learn to live with your pain, and trust that it will become less intense over time. That involves attempting to stay as present with all of the feelings that are coming up for you.

The mistake many people make is in trying to disclaim or just get over their natural feeling responses to sad events. But attempts to simply get over difficult feelings may actually even prolong them.  So, if you are feeling mad at God, or just plain mad, let yourself feel mad. Write in a journal about how you feel, talk about it with other people--especially if you know any other parents who have lost a child--or talk to a religious counselor, such as a minister or rabbi.  

Consider contacting The Compassionate Friends, a national nonprofit organization devoted to supporting families in the aftermath of the death of a child. You might also find a book that specifically addresses grief due to loss of a child particular helpful. For example, try When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.

Here is hoping that the presence of your grandchild helps you sustain your connection with your deceased daughter.