The natural order of things is that a parent will die before the child. It is to be expected especially if the parents has led a full and long life. Even in the most unexpected circumstances, we expect to lay our parents to rest. Even as we help them through the final stages of their life – a long or short illness, perhaps Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, or just dying of old age, even when the death of a parent is expected, it can pull the rug out from underneath any child – no matter what age.
If you’ve lost a parent you know how difficult it can be to cope with their death. Everything changes when a parent dies, so it is no wonder it can take a fair amount of time to feel as if things are back to normal (things won’t be the same, there will be a new normal). When a parent dies it can be devastating to children, grand children and other members of the family. While time does heal most wounds, the death of a parents changes many things forever.
Here are some suggestions for coping with the death of a parent.
- Take time to grieve – I knew a woman whose father died unexpectedly. She and her brother went to work to put all of their father’s affairs in order including putting their mother in a nursing home six months after he died. For a year they both had two cell phones each constantly ringing as they dealt with probate, vacation properties and other financial issues. Neither of them took the time to actually grieve their father’s death until one day in the grocery store she just burst out crying at the realization he was never going to be there at holiday meals or family gatherings. She cried in the produce section because she finally understood that her children would never get to know their grandfather. The death of a parent can be far reaching, take the time to breathe as you move through this period in your life.
- Feeling uncertain is common – They say you don’t really become an adult until the death of your parents. You may have been an adult for decades, but having a parent to go to when times were difficult made it just a little easier. When a parent dies it’s not uncommon for the adult child to feel lost and abandoned. These feelings will subside over time but in the moment can be scary. Know that you aren’t alone and if possible share with a sibling or close friend your fears.
- Grief is a process – One does not grieve for a certain amount of time and then move on. Grief can hit you at any time, like the woman in the produce section. Don’t be surprised if it hits you at holidays, family gatherings, the birth of a new baby or any other family milestone.
- Don’t minimize the loss of a parent – Just because losing a parent is the natural order of the things does not mean it is any less devastating. The loss of a parent can be profound, especially if the relationship was close.
- They will always be your parents – When a parent dies they are still with you. You’ve had a lifetime to create beautiful memories of your parents, they will remain a constant and supportive part of your life, even in death.