5 Ways for Parents to Cope with Unexpected Losses

The phone chimed unexpectedly.  “Dad? What’s up? I didn’t expect to hear from you until later.” What I was about to hear would shake my world. His voice was weak. He could barely speak. I held my breath. “Dena . . . honey”, he choked out, full of raw emotion. Then came the shocking news. My precious mom had died peacefully while getting ready to come go home from the assisted living facility. “Noooo!!!”

shock2Have you been on the receiving end of a call about your son or daughter that left you in shock?

I’ve had those kinds of calls about my daughter, too.

It felt like someone punched me in the stomach; like a rug had been pulled out from under my feet.

I felt nauseous. Stunned. Heartbroken.

I was in shock.

“It can’t be.” “I don’t believe it.” “It can’t be true.” “How could this happen?” “This has to be a bad dream.” “It’s unreal.” “It’s not possible.”


Has this happened to you? You may have said (out loud or in your head):

“How do I go on?”

“How can I cope with this?”

“I can’t do it. It’s too much.”

“This is too hard.”

“I give up. I quit.”

“Things like this happen to other people. Not to me.”

“What do I do now? How do I go on?”

You may have suffered many losses with your child: An arrest, a DUI or some other illegal activity; a pregnancy or abortion; a prison sentence; confirmation of an alcohol or drug problem; a relapse; a medical problem (HIV, AIDS, an STD or something else); physical or sexual abuse (a rape); expelled from school/college; a diagnosis of mental illness; discovering they struggle with self-injury; a suicide attempt; a job loss; plans to divorce; they’re gay (or plan to marry their partner), have a sex addiction or a pornography problem.

The possibilities – endless.

The shock waves – excruciating.

The impact – devastating.

Shock. It can be comforting after an upsetting or surprising event. It’s how our mind protects our emotions in the initial stages of loss and grief; a sense of emotional numbness. This is how I felt when the call came about my mom. I’ve felt the same thing many times with my daughter.

What can we do when we face those astonishing, startling, unanticipated, unforeseen, bewildering times?

Here are 5 things that help me cope:

1. I remind myself God is still in control, even though it may not look that way.

2. I give myself permission to feel whatever I’m feeling. Sadness, anger, etc.

3. I share my need for support with a few understanding, trusted friends. I don’t isolate out of embarrassment.

4. I trust God with the unknowns and refuse to live in fear .

5. Most important of all, I hold on to the truth that I am NOT ALONE. God is with me (and my child).

This Bible verse is a favorite:

“So do not fear (don’t panic), for I am with you; do not be dismayed (or look around you in terror), for I am your God. I will peace20strengthen you, I will help you; I will uphold you (retain you; hold you steady and keep a firm grip on you) with my righteous (victorious) right hand  (Isaiah 41:10).”

(A combination of NIV, Message and Amplified versions)

A book I found helpful is: Experiencing Grief by Norman Wright.

Dear God, help every parent who reads  this cope with the losses they’ve faced or will face in the future. Only you understand their shock and grief. Surround them with comfort. Fill them with peace.

In Jesus’ Name.




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