Grief and Loss: Loss of a Parent
Even though we know we are supposed to outlive our parents, nothing can quite prepare us for the shock and sadness we feel when they pass. Whether their death is sudden or drawn out with illness, there may be unresolved issues that influence our grief. Perhaps, you didn’t get the chance to talk with your dad one last time before his passing. Or maybe your mother’s death occurred right before a holiday, wedding, birthday, or other special event. It is natural to be affected by the grieving process, regardless of the circumstances or age of your parent.
Common Feelings after Losing a Parent
Even if you are an adult when your parent passes, you will still struggle through some common emotions associated with grief. Many children, even grown ones, feel confusion about their new identity and role in the family. You may feel as though no one will ever love you the way your mom or dad did. If your other parent is alive, it might become your responsibility to care for them, especially in their grief. Other common emotions might include guilt for what you didn’t say or do, frustration with the new tasks you’ve assumed, and uncertainty dealing with legal and financial matters.
When both parents are gone, it’s natural for a person to feel like an adult orphan. Your identity might change, as well as your role. Suddenly, you might find yourself to be a member of the oldest living generation in your family. You might feel an overwhelming desire to carry on your parents’ values and traditions or maybe start new ones.
Processing Grief Differently
Everyone will experience grief and loss at some point, but no two people will process it the same way. After the loss of a parent, some people aren’t sure how to respond. People may not understand why you are grieving if your parent lived a long life. Others who have already lost a parent may step in and support you with comforting words and kind acts. Your siblings may also be struggling with your parent’s death, but they might grieve in an entirely different manner.
Coping with Grief
There is no correct way to grieve and no universal timeline for it. Grief will look different for everyone. However, the following are a few considerations for taking care of yourself when you lose a parent:
Many times loss is unexpected. And even when we’re anticipating it, we might not be prepared for how we will react. When we are grieving, we are more likely to stop or minimize healthy habits. Much of the healing process, however, is related to good self-care. Taking the time to get proper rest, eat well, and exercise regularly is essential to your healing after you experience a loss. These healthy choices will help you transition to a place of hope after a loss, and will serve to honor your parents’ wishes for your health and happiness.