Grieving the Loss of a Parent
When a parent dies, we’re supposed to be prepared for this normal life passage. Or, at least be ready to accept it when it happens.We’re expected to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move on. However, just because the death of a parent is commonplace and is the natural order of things, it doesn’t mean we can or should be expected to simply and quickly bounce back. When a parent dies, it can be unexpectedly devastating and can cause considerable upheaval in our lives. As adults, we are often surprised at the emotions which can threaten to overwhelm us following the death of our mother or father. After all, we reason, it’s in the natural order of things that we will one day bury our parents. Why then the immense pain, the sense of confusion, the feeling of having been abandoned? This may be because, buried in our subconscious, is the belief that our parents are immortal.
Grief is exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you have recently lost your mother or father, be especially kind to yourself. These pointers can help you work through your sense of loss:
Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Well-intentioned people may try to speed up the grieving process for you. They’ll try to keep you busy, and some of them won’t mention your parent’s name for fear of hurting you. But you must allow yourself to grieve. If you try to stay busy and put it out of your mind, it will catch up to you. You’re going to feel it at some point so it’s best to let it happen naturally.
Don't put a time limit on your grief or question your personal process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there's no set time limit on the process. The wound of losing a parent never fully heals, but the pain does get more bearable over time. How long it should take? No one can say. For some, it’s weeks; for others it may be months or even years before the grief subsides.
Allow yourself to have bad days. Even long after your parent has passed, you will have days when you miss him or her dearly. Let yourself feel the grief again. Those days will come, no matter how long it's been.
Find your comfort and peace. People find solace in different things. For some, taking a walk in nature helps. For others, a long, hot bath does the trick. The important thing is not what you do, but that you do something for you. There may be songs, smells, or images that bring comfort to you, as well. Find whatever works for you and don’t let anyone diminish the importance of those moments.
When you’re ready, forge ahead and live your life. At some point after your loved one’s death, you will find reasons to smile again. This is one of the greatest things we can do to honor our parents and the love we have for them. Find joy again. Laugh heartily. Love deeply. Live like they would want you to. And remember: after they are gone, your parents will continue to be a part of your life, just in a different sense. You will always be their son or daughter.
On those days when you just miss your mother or father, don't fight it. And if you feel the need, seek out support from others who’ve been there—a friend who cares, a clergy person, or a professional who can help guide you through the work of grief. When a parent dies, yes, it is the natural order of things. But taking time to grieve for them should be, as well.