There is a seemingly natural order to death and dying. As part of the perceived order, children bury their parents. When a child dies before his or her parents, the natural order of things is turned upside down.
Grieving the loss of a child can be particularly challenging. During that process, a parent faces a variety of issues, including what to do with a child’s room after he or she has died. When it comes to the question of “if you lose a child, do you clean the room or leave it?” there are a variety of factors and considerations to bear in mind.
People Grieve in Their Own Unique Ways
The initial, perhaps most fundamental, consideration to bear in mind when it comes to the question of what to do with your child’s room after he or she dies is the reality that each individual person grieves in his or her own unique way. When making a decision about what to do about a child’s room after death, you need to pay heed to how changing the space or keeping in the same will enhance a healthy grieving process. This may be a decision that requires guidance from a bereavement professional. (There are therapists that work closely with people in addressing issues related to grief and bereavement.)
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified what she called the five stages of grief:
These can be helpful in assisting you in understanding what you might expect when it comes to the death of child. (On some level, the five stages of grief tend to be best fitted to a person who is facing death, which is what they originally were constructed to illuminate.)
Perhaps a more helpful guidepost in dealing with the connection between grief and making decisions about what to do with a deceased child’s room are the five identity types associated with a person grieving the death of a loved one. These identity types are enumerated in The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing After the Loss of a Loved One.
- Nomads experience a wide range of emotions and typically don’t understand how the loss has impacted their lives.
- Memorialists commit to preserving the memory of their loved ones through the creation of concrete memorials to honor them.
- Normalizers commit to restoring a sense of normality to life following the death of a loved one, following a tact of life goes on.
- Activists strive to create a sense of meaning and understanding about the death of a loved one
- Seekers ask existential questions about life, death, and their relationship to a loved one who died.
If you and the child’s other parent are both in the picture, you need to work together to determine what to do with your son or daughter’s room, and when to do it. You are both grieving the loss, and that process is unique to each of you. If there are other children in the household, they need to be included in the equation as well.
In the final analysis, when multiple people are involved, something of a weighing and balancing process exists. The grieving processes of each individual needs to be considered. Moreover, clear, open lines of communication between all individuals with an interest in a deceased child’s room, needs to be established and maintained.
Traumatic Death of a Child
Sadly, in the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people under the age of 21. In a considerable number of youth suicide cases, the death occurs in that young person’s room. A percentage of those deaths occur via a traumatic means, like the use of a gun or blade.
If a traumatic death of a child occurs in his or her room, professional intervention to restore the room to a livable condition is highly recommended. Parents, and others, who have a direct relationship with a child who takes his or her own life must never compound their grief by attempting to remediate the aftermath of a traumatic death.
As has been stated, people grieve in different ways. With that said, when a traumatic death occurs in a home, consideration should be given to the idea of not attempting to preserve a room in the exact state in which it existed before the life-ending event. Trying to make a perfect tableau of what the room looked like before the death may result in the manner of the end of that child’s life being starkly etched in other people’s minds in a way that likely will hamper a healthy grieving process.