Regardless of the personal relationship, you may have with your parents, the death of a parent can be a devastating experience for anyone. Dealing with the grief over a parent’s passing is difficult experience that leads to ultimate healing.
Whether your parent was suffering for some time or their death came unexpectedly, you may be forced into a roller coaster of complicated emotions.
Although it can be hard, learning how to deal with losing a parent can be your first step to resolving your emotions. While everyone experiences the grief of a parent’s passing differently, there is a general pattern that people tend to follow.
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Some of the More Common Emotions People Experience are:
You may experience these emotions consecutively or in different orders over the course of your mourning. It’s also important to understand that it’s perfectly normal to experience one or more emotions at the same time.
It may help you to remember that:
- You are not alone
- All of us work through grief at some point in our lives
- Others can help you work through your grief
- Recognizing the stages of grief is the first step towards recovery
Symptoms of Coping with the Loss of a Parent
Grief takes us through various stages. It’s the process of working through each stage that helps us heal and come to a place of acceptance of death.
Let’s take a closer look at a few emotions related to grief.
Anger is an emotion that everyone becomes familiar with prior to experiencing grief. Anger affects you and sometimes has a negative effect on others around you. You may not recognize your feelings as grief until they affect someone else.
Here are some things to consider when trying to understand your anger:
- Be willing to feel angry feelings-they are a necessary stage in the healing process.
- The more you accept anger as a normal stage of grief, the easier healing will come.
- Recognize that pain is at the root of your anger.
- Intense emotions such as anger validate your love for someone who passed away.
People will expect you to be sad over the loss of a loved one. Take time to feel sad and be alone if you need to. Be aware that feelings of sadness should be somewhat temporary and should not give way to long-term depression.
Here are some signs that you may need professional help to move past sadness:
- Feelings of depression persist beyond a few months.
- Feelings of depression are persistent and don’t go away, even for brief periods.
- Sadness interrupts our daily life.
- Your hygiene and other daily habits are suffering.
When dealing with the loss of a parent, you may be tempted to try to rationalize their passing. You may have thoughts of wondering, “If I’d only done…Mom may have lived.” Or, “I wish I’d been at Dad’s bedside before he passed…” In most cases, it’s important to recognize that anything you may have done or said would not have made a difference.
Here are some ways to help you cope with feelings of guilt:
• Focus on the good memories you had instead of self-blame.
• Don’t focus on the past.
• Talk to a trusted friend or counselor and share your feelings, time will heal them.
Sometimes you may not even feel anything -and that’s okay. Everyone deals with the loss of a parent differently, and there is no right way to handle it.
Sometimes it may not feel very real to you just yet, and that is perfectly normal. Never let anyone try to make you feel awful or guilty about your process. It is not completely under your control.
Here’s a few other things you should know about the stage of denial:
• Denial allows other feelings to surface.
• Denial is the first step in the grieving process and it’s completely normal.
• In the beginning of this stage, just getting through the day is often enough.
Healing After Losing an Elderly Loved One
Everyone has their healing process when it comes to coping with the loss of a parent. Understand how to recognize your emotions and your limits.
Never be afraid to reach out – whether to close friends or family members or even a professional.
Issues that Complicate Grief Over the Loss of a Parent
It’s always hard to lose a parent. For some people, the loss comes at a time of life that makes the loss doubly hard.
When the loss of a parent comes on top of an existing tragedy, adult children may have difficulty turning away from existing grief to deal with the immediate tragedy.
It’s painfully difficult with both situations. The reality is that adult children in these situations need to take time to heal from both tragedies.
Following are some examples of situations that make loss of a parent exceptionally hard:
- Losing a parent and immediately need to care for the other parent.
- Loss of a parent among serious health concerns of your own.
- Loss of a parent during other significant life struggles like losing a job, divorce, making a major move.
Losing One Parent Shortly After Another Parent
Senior parents adapt to caring for each other’s needs as they age and need more help. When one parents passes away, the other parent suddenly realizes how much help they need without the assistance of their beloved spouse.
This causes many adult children to forgo their own grief and fill the role of caregiver for the remaining parent.
Losing a Parent While Struggling with Your Own Health Concerns
Experiencing grief over the loss of a parent becomes even more painful for adult children who are suffering through serious injuries or illnesses. Grief steals large amounts of energy from healthy people. Those who feel weak or are in pain have little energy to spare. [i]
Losing a Parent During Trying Life Circumstances
Those who are going through difficult life circumstances such as losing a job, divorce, a major move, or the loss of another significant person find it especially difficult to deal with the stress and mix of emotions that accompany loss of a parent and another major life event simultaneously.
When you add in the emotions of every day’s trials, it can be overwhelming.
If you’re facing any of these situations, be patient with yourself and with others. Time will help you get through grief and any other situations life brings.
The important thing about grief is to feel your emotions, whatever they are. Address them as they surface. Don’t put a timeframe on feeling better. When you’re there, you’ll know it.