We all know that nobody lives forever, but the thought of losing the very people who gave you life is crushing. As an adult, people expect you to handle the loss of a parent “as an adult” because you know that it’s an expected part of life. But what does handling the loss of a parent “as an adult” actually mean?
Does that mean that you shouldn’t cry or be sad?
Does that mean to have the mentality of “at least you had them growing up?”
This unrealistic expectation of how adults should handle grief is proof that society indeed doesn’t have a real grasp on life and the different ways people handle the loss of a loved one.
The reality behind grief is that it’s a reflection of a connection one has of their loved one that is now gone. Even when a loved one has been sick for a while, and you know the end is near, their death is still a great shock. One of the ways people best handle it is by remembering all the times they spent together. People forget that death happens in a moment, and then it’s over, but the after-effects of death, by way of grieving, can sometimes be everlasting.
If you’ve lost a parent or are bracing yourself for the death of a parent, here are some things you can do to help you get through that difficult time.
Share Your Memories
One thing that helps grieving children with the loss of their parents is to just share the memories they have. It might be painful to talk about at first but talking about it to family and friends, whether you realize it or not, will keep their memory alive and make you feel better to get your feelings out.
Of course, not everyone has positive memories of their parents so talking about your feelings might not be a comforting thing to you, especially if they were abusive towards you or hurt you growing up. But what you’ll find is that despite having ill feelings toward them while they were alive, it will be even harder to not address those issues once they’re gone. If this describes your grieving situation with a parent, you’ll want to seek the help of a therapist for additional guidance during this time.
Embrace the Grieving Stages
All too often, people tend to think that grieving is just a process of being sad about losing a loved one, when the reality is that the grieving process entails many different emotions. There are five stages of grieving you should be aware of. Some people experience one stage while many experience multiple stages and in different orders. Here are the five stages of grief.
Denial is pure disbelief that your parent is gone; They’re never going to call you again or come over on Sundays for dinner. This is a coping mechanism that allows you to survive the grief.
Anger is often a feeling we use to mask the underlying feeling of sadness. We get angry because they’re not here anymore, which is really masking the feeling of sadness.
Bargaining is your attempt to do anything to keep your loved one here a little longer. Phrases like “Please God” or “I promise” are bargaining phrases grieving people use. It’s also during this stage that many people feel guilt as well. This is common for children who had to take their parents to a nursing home facility because they could no longer care for their aging parents at home. When parents suffer injuries in nursing homes from neglect like bedsores, and die from it, the guilt, and also anger, just intensifies, leading to seeking emotional damages.
Depression is when we finally begin to realize the harsh reality of our loss. In many cases, our friends are tired of hearing us talk about our loss. American culture places an emphasis on “getting over it.” Feeling isolated because no one wants to listen or be around you anymore can be overwhelming.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that you are no longer mourning the loss of your parent. It simply means that you’ve come to terms with the reality that your parent is gone.
There is no set timeline for moving through any of these stages. Everyone experiences these stages differently. Some will never reach the acceptance stage. Some will never stop being angry. Annual holidays like Mother’s and Father’s Day can reopen the wounds. Handling your grief “as an adult” may mean having to isolate yourself for a time while you allow yourself to experience the emotions of loss.