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Because family life matters

A socially unacceptable death

Graeme and Philippa’s son Jim died in November 2007 after a drug overdose in Hong Kong. Here Philippa reflects on her experiences.

Those who have lost a child will know how hard it is for others to relate to us. For many reasons, family, friends and colleagues are unsure what to say or what to do. Thus there is often a feeling of great isolation following such a bereavement, which can make an already intolerable situation even worse.

Sadly there are some deaths, such as taking one’s own life or overdosing on illegal drugs, which cause the bereaved to feel even more alone in their pain. These are the deaths that others find harder to understand. The bereaved parents and family fear that their child or sibling will be judged unfavourably by others, which is almost unendurably painful.

I was so fearful that others would imagine him a ‘bad boy’, rather than trying to understand the loving and vulnerable young man behind the story.

In my own experience, the fear of what others may be thinking about my son and us caused me to withdraw even more. All I wanted to do was talk about Jim and how much I loved and missed him. I was so fearful that others would imagine him a ‘bad boy’, rather than trying to understand the loving and vulnerable young man behind the story. On top of all of that, part of me also wanted to scream at him, ‘What were you doing… why did you do that?’ It’s hard to feel angry with the person you love and miss so much.

There is no easy way through such complicated and confused feelings of grief, isolation, shame, fear, anger and love. To lose a child at any stage in any circumstances is terrible, but to feel alone and afraid of being misunderstood makes it, if possible, even worse.

If you find yourself in such a place, I believe the best thing you can do to help yourself is to learn to be open, to find help and talk to others who have lived through similar experiences. You are the one who knew and loved your child the best and can help others understand how precious they were and still are.

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