Is life worth living after losing parents

Orphaned Parents

When your own child dies

The death of one's own child is the worst that can happen to a parent. Self-help groups offer a protective space to find new life forces through grief.

Cemetery, place of mourning

The worst thing for every mother happened to Katrin Lorbeer eight years ago: she lost her child. “Even the doctors couldn't explain to us why Jonas suddenly died after a flu and infections,” says Laurel very quietly. The death of a 16-year-old and the only child out of the blue: She would have loved to go to the grave with her, says the mother.

She and her husband went through the deepest gorges. “And I couldn't hide my suffering either. I kept crying. And wanted to tell about Jonas. “What the environment at some point acknowledged with incomprehension. The silence, the looking away, the avoidance of friends and acquaintances was cruel. “They couldn't even pronounce Jonas' name anymore,” accuses the Bonn woman.

All relationships, all friendships were broken for the couple after the death of the boy. She now understands that when Jonah died unexpectedly, people suddenly all had to deal with fear themselves. "They worried about their own children and didn't want to admit anything like that."

Around 25,000 children and young adults die every year in Germany. With over 13,000 cases, the majority affects 16 to 35-year-olds, i.e. potential driver license holders. In babies and up to 15 years of age, 5,500 people die every year. There are also cases of miscarriages, stillbirths and medically indicated abortions.

Katrin Lorbeer is a social worker herself. She knew that she and her husband needed urgent help back then. 80 percent of orphaned parents steered into divorce after infant death, say the statistics. "It's like two drowning people clinging to each other." So good help was needed. She found Laurel on the one hand in therapy, on the other hand in self-help groups of the nationwide association "Orphaned Parents".

She wanted to get to know people who had survived the death of their child in the first place. She wanted to know how these parents found their way back to life. A group around Gisela Meyer in Bad Bodendorf in Rhineland-Palatinate and then in Bonn-Bad Godesberg around Ingeborg Kercher would have made it. Nobody just went back to business here. Here you were caught and competently accompanied by fellow fateurs at least for an hour.

Seek outside help

Ingeborg Kercher herself lost a son more than twenty years ago and, after a long period of suffering, felt the strength to accompany others on their way to mourning. "Because without outside help, there is hardly a family that can cope with this worst possible loss." In their group of ten people, they can now keep quiet, listen and, above all, talk and cry. Information and offers of help are exchanged.

At some point members will "fledged" for life again, that is the goal, and create space for other mourners. However, Kercher also conducts many one-on-one conversations separately and arranges other offers of help. "Because children's graves do not close for a lifetime."

This is also confirmed by the other two providers of "orphaned parents" groups in Bonn. The evangelical pastor Grit de Boer and the self-affected Ulrike Weck-Steinmetz offer ten evenings at regular intervals that look back, look at the present and the future. “The crucial questions are: What happened? Who was that kid How was the relationship What remains? How do others treat us? Where do I go with my feelings, with guilt, loneliness, longing? Where is my child now What is stopping me from living? What makes me live What are my life forces? What do I need to live? ”Enumerates the experienced grief counselor de Boer.

After the course, the groups stayed together under the wing of “godmothers” if they wanted to. The pastor explains that a touching network of orphaned parents has already emerged. "I am happy to see how different people have grown together and support each other, how lovingly they treat each other."

Christian places are important

Christian and spiritual places are very important to many people because they can convey hope and consolation, reports Ingeborg Kercher. The memory is the safest place for the future relationship, because in reality this relationship no longer exists. The deceased child remains part of the family only in memory.

The cornerstones of every grief are also questions of guilt that could burden for years and decades. Something like "What did I miss? Where am I owed love? What have I done wrong in my life that this fate is charged to me? ”If you get stuck on these questions, life cannot become worth living again, says Kercher.

"If feelings of guilt have been repressed for years because one was busy keeping the family afloat, then these feelings of guilt pave the way that can bring everything to collapse many years after the child's death." Therefore, it is not a solution, To suppress grief, because it often leads to bitterness, illness and new suffering.

A new chapter in life

In any case, Katrin Lorbeer and her husband have now managed to open a new chapter in their lives. Happy children are noisy again through their house. Unfortunately, at work she only felt a lack of understanding from her colleagues, she looks back. Then she got out and set herself a completely new task. “We have accepted two traumatized foster children who absolutely need us and who at the same time give our lives a sense of purpose and a future,” says the social worker with a firm voice.

It goes without saying that the two little ones would have taken Jonas Zimmer for themselves. And how happy they would have been about the late son's toy. The two whirlwinds would also take the name of the big boy from whom they got the Lego bricks as a matter of course. Now Katrin Lorbeer has to cry. “Then Jonas is there too.” With these children playing, your boy will come to life again. "And that's just as well."

The “Orphaned Parents in Germany” network comprises over 500 groups. Contact via the homepage The federal association is also present at the German Evangelical Church Congress in Dresden. The memorial service for deceased children will be held in the Zionskirche in Dresden on June 2, 11 a.m. / Ebba Hagenberg-Miliu / April 29, 2011