By Paul C Rosenblatt.
Brunner and Mazel
ISBN: 1 58391 033 6 (hardback)
1 58391 034 4
Rosenblatt’s new book is another in the excellent series on
death, dying and bereavement published by Brunner and Mazel. It
explores the narratives of 58 parents (29 couples) following the
deaths of children caused by various diseases and accidents.
The author found common elements in all the narratives. The
parents’ extreme grief included a wish to create a continuing
connection with the child, a need to mark anniversaries and what
would have been milestones in their lives, a search for the meaning
of such a terrible loss, a chasm existing between grieving parents
and other people, and the weight of enduring such sorrow in an
unsympathetic world – a social and economic world described by
Rosenblatt as giving “little latitude to grief”.
Some of the parents’ narratives included criticism of
insensitive professionals, but others described the support they
were given and how their grief was sometimes shared by
One couple, on learning that their child had a terrible illness,
asked the paediatrician if he was trying to tell them that their
child was going to die. The mother described the doctor’s emotions
at this question: “Bless his heart, he had tears in his eyes and he
couldn’t say it.”
The parents stressed their need to keep talking about their
children, and how they came to die, and the characters who were
involved in the deaths. “You need people that are willing to listen
to it over and over, and I don’t mean for months. I mean for
years…you never get sick of telling it. And that’s how you get
Rosenblatt reminds us that “a child’s death in some sense ends
the world in which the parents have lived”.
Some comfort might be gained if their children’s final words
affirmed that they loved their parents and knew that their parents
In using the sad and broken narratives of grieving parents, this
painful and sensitive book sheds new light on the long-term
emotional devastation caused by child deaths.
It should be essential reading for social workers, teachers,
doctors and nurses, as well as bereavement counsellors.
Maureen Oswin is author of Am I Allowed to Cry?