Dealing with the Loss of a Parent

When a parent passes, there’s a lot of emotional turmoil that bubbles beneath the surface. You may have had unresolved issues (don’t we all with our parents) but now is not the time to try to resolve them.

Tempting as it may be to hold on to all their possessions so as to keep as much of their memory alive as possible, it’s not a good idea. Individual, meaningful items – a watch, necklace, or particular suit (dry cleaned) – will act as a piece of memorabilia just perfectly.

Try not to get involved in what relationships might have developed with other family members. If there was a falling out between others and your parent, it’s up to them to come to terms with that situation. Maybe your brother or sister held some kind of resentment towards your parent, but unless they come looking to you for some kind of solace, it’s none of your business.

It’s okay if you find yourself angry for no apparent reason, and backing up that anger with what seems to be a completely ungrateful lack of tears. Anger is good. You may feel that you’re being unfair, but the anger is most likely about the circumstance, but since there’s little you can do to resolve it, the anger finds another target – living or dead.

One day at a time works for many things – such as new habits. Your new daily habit is that of being without your parent or parents.

Guilt is an emotion you will become intimately aware of during any grieving process, but if you’re an adult and have been away from the family home without keeping in touch or visiting as often as your parent might have wished, you’ll struggle with it now. Let it go and try not to judge yourself. Talk to other family members about how you feel – they’ll often share similar feelings.

Speaking of other family members, remember that this is not your grief alone, but that of the entire family. If you have a surviving parent, be mindful that theirs is likely the biggest sense of loss. Much of their identity will have become associated with their partner and not only will their entire history with that person seem lost, but so will their future. This is especially hurtful for those around retirement age, who may have been planning to spend more time together for years.

You will need to show patience because now is not a time they will behave rationally. You may be uncomfortable watching as a parent unravels before your eyes, but it is this experience and the subsequent recovery that makes us human.