Losing a Parent or Child

Bird in TreeI was on a walk this morning and listening to Hootie and The Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View album and the song “I’m Goin’ Home” came on. I have listened to it many, many times but never connected to what it really meant. The song is about losing a mom.

I am blessed enough to say that I have not lost a child or parent. Unfortunately my daughter and parents cannot say that. My daughter lost her father when she was 16 and my parents lost 3 out of 4 of their parents when they were in their early 20’s.

A friend of mine is dealing with the loss of her sweet, extremely smart, beautiful 20 year old son. I truly cannot imagine the pain that her family is going through. We are somewhat prepared to deal with a loss from a generation above us but when someone dies who is a generation below you, the whole order of how life is “supposed be” no longer makes sense. Your whole life turns upside down. She is going through it with such amazing grace. I am in awe of her strength and her will to get her and her family through this horrific loss. Another friend has 3 of her children in counseling because they are so angry that their dad died unexpectantly last summer. Anger is just the pain you feel from losing a loved one. Grief.com says “Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss.” So it is ok if you feel angry. Everyone deals with loss differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

When my husband died, I was a mess to say the least. I went into a deep depression, did not want to eat and lost over 25 pounds in a little over a month. I am the poster child of what not to do. Then four months later I woke up one day and said to myself that I have to start living life again for my daughter. It is not that I healed overnight because I did not. I just made a conscious choice to try to move forward no matter how slowly it would take. It is now four years later I am much better but still trying to get used to life without Don. My therapist at the time (and yes therapy is good because you need help to process what is going on at the beginning) Theresa told me “You put the pain into a little box and just learn to live with it. You don’t ever get over it.” That advice is so true. Even though when you are going through it you may not think you will come out the other end.

I am here to say that with time you do. And everyone’s “time” is different. People deal with grief in very different ways. My daughter still has moments when the grief is too much. Theresa also told me that when a parent is not doing well from a loss or divorce, that a child may hold their pain in because they do not want to make their parent feel worse. It may be a year or two later that their grief or anger starts to show. I know it is like that with my daughter. Honor that person’s grieving time even though it is not your own. Don’t say you should be over this by now because everyone grieves differently.

My advice is to give yourself time to surrender to the grief so that you can heal because the grief will come out eventually or show up in your life in different ways. You can deal with it now or it might come up 10 years later. But as Theresa says “you will eventually have to deal with it”.

My hope is that when you have a loss in your life that you have the strength to cope like my friend who has lost her son. And if you can’t, that is ok too. Only you can know what is best for you. Just know that there are many people who love you and will be there to support you in your time of need.

And if people want to help, let them. Don’t feel you need to carry and do everything yourself. If they want to fix you a dinner, take you out for coffee, go for a walk or pick up your kid from school, let them. Accept the help. People want to do something to help in a time of need. It makes them feel better that they can be of service. So let them serve you. And then someday it will be your turn to help someone. What you receive now you can pay back to someone else later. And that is how we get through loss. Surrendering to the grief, feeling the loss and letting others help you. With the help and love of others, you can find the light at the end of the tunnel.

There is a great website, http://grief.com/, which talks about the 5 stages of grief, the best and worst things to say and contains videos and suggested books to help you through this difficult time. At the bottom of the site’s home page there is a list of organizations and other websites that may help you or a loved one who is going through grief. It is normal to go through grief so I am not sure why our society does not talk about it. When you are talking to someone in grief, sometimes it is more about listening then talking. Try to start a conversation because many people won’t because they don’t know what to say. I know I loved to hear a favorite memory of Don. Or just a walk with a friend or a hug from someone did wonders! And it is ok to just be with them in silence. You don’t need to fill all the empty space with words. Just be with them. And if you can’t be with them, a phone call to check in on them once a week can help. Finally, just let them know that you are here for them and that you care. They may feel all alone and knowing someone cares may make this difficult time a bit easier to get through.

Below is Theresa’s information.

Theresa Davis, MFT

1665 Creekside Drive, Ste.106
Folsom, CA  95630 
(916) 837-9561

Quote - Life of the dead by Marcus Tullius CireroSong - I'm Goin Home by Hootie and The Blowfish

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