Grieving the loss of a parent is not just about sadness. It’s beyond what a human being can fathom and articulate in words. Feelings and thoughts of pain, anger, hoplessness, helplessness, denial, shock and likewise can fill you up. Coping with grief is a journey of healing and takes time to recuperate from.
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” – Queen Elizabeth II
A parent-child relationship is one of the most sacred and fundamental relationships recognized today. No matter what the relationship may look like, a parent and child may hold deep love and affection towards each other. When we love someone immensely, even the thought of losing them can be eternally terrifying.
The loss of a parent doesn’t only leave people feeling lost and alone, it also creates a physical vacuum in your proximal space (if you lived with them). The relationship we share with parents remains incomparable and is one of the most sacred unions. Parents not only give us birth but also help us grow and develop as individuals and protect us from all that’s negative. Nature and nurture both involve parents primarily and then further other people.
Experiencing Grief in 5 Stages
Loss of a parent can be one of the harshest experiences to cope with at any given age. Grief becomes an ongoing part of our lives and travelling through this journey of healing may take several turns as we go forward in it. Grief itself can be understood in five stages. It may start with denial which causes the survivor of loss to feel shock, numb and find everything around to be meaningless. Further, one may move to the state of anger which disguises other emotions. When the loss feels unfair, we turn to anger and question the sanctity of the universe, God, medicine, or anything that seems to play an important role in keeping humans safe and alive. Bargaining is the next stage where a person may find him/herself in the “what if… then I will”, or “if only…” situations where they try to hope that if they do something for someone, their loved one might return and life will continue normally. Next, we may move to depression which feels like this pain and despair may never end. This should not be confused with a mental illness as it’s a response to grief and loss. It involves people withdrawing from surroundings, and refraining from taking care of themselves. It feels like the worst feeling a human can feel. The final stage is acceptance which does not mean that we are okay with the loss or are completely fine now. It only means that at this point, we are ready to cope with the loss and live our lives as normally as we can. It can still involve feelings of sadness and pain but it also makes you look at the present situation realistically.
Coping is a Process… Not a Destination
There is no one particular list of things to do to cope with the loss of a parent. This loss can be so intense that sometimes no intervention may seem effective and that’s okay. Grief is a process and needs time to heal. Following are some things we can do to take care of ourselves when experiencing grief and battling the void left by a diseased parent.
- Seek support from others and build a support system which will help you keep away from isolation and spiralling in the grief by yourself. Spending time with one or two trusted friends or family members can assist you in the process of healing and sharing your pain with them.
- Prioritize basic needs of your body and mind like eating, sleeping, keeping a consistent routine since grief can be so consuming that we may often neglect our health which may lead to further concerns.
- On special days related to parents, like birthdays, mother’s/father’s day, anniversary, try to do something in their memory and don’t hold back feelings of sadness and emptiness. Their absence can be painful and that’s okay. Feel what you need to.
- Try to make a list of things you enjoy doing as during this time, you can go back these activities and do one a day.
- Seeking professional help from a counsellor/therapist can be very useful. They are trained to assist you in this process and help you find strategies and tools to work through your grief.
- Celebrate one thing your parent/s enjoyed doing like food, visiting a place, doing a particular activity and likewise, each day or as often as you can. This will help you stay connected to them and their memories.
- Practice self-compassion and kindness and allow yourself to express your true feelings for as long as you need.
- Write a letter to your parent/s expressing how you feel about them, in their absence and what you intend to do moving forward.
- Take frequent walks in nature and stay connected to sunlight and water.
Grief is not just about sadness. it’s a combination of multiple feelings and thoughts. As difficult as might be, trying to take care of you by doing different and nurturing acts towards yourself can be refreshing and relieving. Remember, you are never alone in travelling this journey of pain and discomfort. Let time do it’s needful while you turn your attention and kindness inwards