The death of a child can be a devastating experience that places a parent at heightened risk of psychological suffering and impairments in functioning. The death of a child is out of sequence with the 'life-cycle' of a family and can often come unexpectedly. Although the majority of bereaved parents find a way to live productive lives some do experience severe and long-lasting mental-health problems. A study of 157 parents who had lost children, by reseachers at the University of Memphis Tennessee, found that the violence of the child's death, the age of the child at death and the length of bereavement all accounted for significant differences in grief symptoms. Cause of death was the only objective risk factor that significantly predicted the intensity of complicated (or more severe) grief. The most important predictor of the severity of grief was 'sense-making' with those parents who said they had made little or no sense of their child's death being more likely to report a greater intensity of grief.
Keesee, Nancy J., Currier, Joseph M. and Neimeyer, Robert A. - Predictors of grief following the death of one's child: the contribution of finding meaning Journal of Clinical Psychology October 2008, 64(10), 1145-1163