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The Worst Loss

The Worst Loss

The Worst Loss

The Torn Canopy
A young child plays contentedly by herself. She is serene, focussed on her play. Above her, invisible to her, arches a bright canopy of safety. Erected by her parents, it enables her to play, and to grow.
The canopy is the protection and love which as parents we provide for our children, and without which they will not survive, neither physically nor psychologically. Its arching fabric is woven of many elements: our recollections, conscious and unconscious, of our own parents’ treatment of us when we were children; our hopes and fantasies for our children; who they are to us, and what we hope they will become. Our commitment to care for them, to all the daily drudgery as well as to the pleasures of their care. It is organized around our vision of ourselves as parents, and shaped by our continuing interaction with them.
Woven through the fabric are the shining threads of illusion. The world is a safe and orderly place. Our family is especially safe. Nothing bad will happen to you. We, your parents, have the power to keep you safe. Time and experience will tarnish these threads, and our child will part with her illusions. But for a time in childhood these illusions are essential to children’s growing up whole. Before their own resources are sufficient to rely on, these essential illusions make it possible for children to feel safe.
The canopy we furl over our children keeps parents safe too. The illusions we weave for our children sustain us as well. The knowledge that we have constructed a safe canopy for our children becomes a source of deep personal satisfaction, and a pillar of self-esteem.
A child’s death tears the canopy wide open. Parents and siblings stand robbed of their child, bereft of their illusions, exposed, overwhelmed, alone. In this first section, we examine what happens to parents and to children when their bright canopy no longer protects them, when a child dies.

The death of a child is a loss like no other. Parents experience the symptoms of grief more intensely and for much longer than for any other loss. For the dead child’s siblings, their family is never the same again. Too often they face their grief alone. Parents’ grief may be so disabling that they are unable to help their surviving children.

How do families survive this worst of all losses? What helps people heal? What are the barriers to healing, and what will break down those barriers. What have families and the clinicians who work with them learned that will help others through their loss and enable them to rebuild their lives? Barbara Rosof, now Barbara Davenport, a child psychotherapist, has drawn on families’ own stories and on groundbreaking research on grieving to answer these and other questions. She explains the psychological tasks that parents and siblings face in coming to terms with their loss and charts the course of both acute grief and the long haul of mourning, and she teaches bereaved parents how to help their surviving children.

The Worst Loss will help families who have lost a child know what they are facing, understand what they are feeling, and honor their own needs and timetables.

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Reviews and Praise

For families embarked on the tortuous journey of healing after the death of a child, Barbara Rosof’s down to earth presentation and practical advice will serve as a powerful guide. The many poignant anecdotes and optimistic approach should be welcomed by survivors and clinicians alike. I recommend this highly readable and important contribution to the field.- Elliott J Rosen Ed.D., Family Institute of Westchester
Here is a book filled with sensitive empathy and compassionate wisdom. Barbara Rosof is a professional understands the broken heart of the grieving parent. She has completely captured my mind and heart with the depth of her insights. This is an amazingly comforting book for any bereaved parent and a must for all professionals!- Andrea Gambill, former editor, Bereavement Magazine
Rosof, a child psychotherapist who has worked for many years with families who have lost children, offers a clear, sympathetic, no-nonsense guide to surviving “a loss like no other.” Using effective anecdotes from her practice, she explains why grieving is necessary, the stages of grief parents and sibling will likely go through, possible barriers to grieving, and learning to let go and create a new life. Throughout, she stresses that parents will never be the same as they were before their child’s death. Rosof wisely deals with specifics such as coping with the death of a newborn or death from illness, murder, suicide, and accidents, though inevitably there is some ground she cannot cover, e.g., a stepparent’s grief and the loss of an adult child or sibling. Nevertheless, parents mourning the loss of a child will find that Rosof’s many insights ring true. An excellent primer that belongs in most public libraries.- Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Each week some 1900 American families are faced with the death of a child-allegedly the most harrowing of losses. Research shows that the grief of parents lasts longer and is more intense than any other. Here, Rosof, a California psychotherapist who works with bereaved families, offers compassionate advice to help parents cope. After describing the many ways children (including adult children) die, she explains why grieving is crucial to recovery, how the partners’ relationship may be affected and the ways surviving siblings grieve. She also shows parents how to break down psychological barriers that hinder necessary grief work and prevent full recovery. In perhaps the most enlightening-as well as painful-part, families tell of their children’s deaths and their aftermath. Included is a list of national organizations that support bereaved parents.- Publishers Weekly
When my son died I poured myself into books on grieving. This was the clear winner. Rosof provides unique insight into the special way a parent’s brain is wired to connect with their child from before birth, and offers an understanding of the complex processes involved in working through grieving the loss of this very special connection. It helped me understand myself and what I was going through better. She also does a great job of discussing the varying ways different family members respond to the same loss, and the different ways this loss arises (from sudden accident to terminal illness.) I am still fresh on this terrible journey – just 3+ months – but I feel much better equipped than I did before reading this book.- V. Bennett,