Grief and Dealing with the loss of a parent
It’s hard to accept what life throws at you. Especially when that “thing” is the loss of your parent/guardian. The death of a loved one is one of life’s hardest challenges, and can take its toll on us all in various ways. Below are some tips for dealing with grief and letting go to help you heal naturally and cope effectively.
When someone close to you dies, you may go through a range of feelings and reactions. Some people may be angry, some may feel like they are going crazy while others just do not know how to deal with their loss. You can feel all of these emotions at once or one emotion may take over and replace another. These feelings are normal and are a part of the process, that is, healing after the death of a loved one. Grief is an emotional process that consists of painful feelings and thoughts, both conscious and unconscious. No two people will deal with the grief in exactly the same way, everyone handles it differently.
The five stages of grief were introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist who worked with terminally ill patients to help them cope with the end of their lives. Her theory was that people go through these stages every time they experience a loss. The stages don’t happen in order and each one can be experienced multiple times, depending on the person and the situation.
There are 5 stages of grief:
1. Denial: Denial is the first stage of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process.*
2. Anger: The second stage is anger. This can be a normal response to the death of a loved one, especially when it was unexpected or due to an accident or violence. However, anger can be destructive if it continues for a long time and/or becomes too extreme. Some people become angry with God or feel rage towards the person who died. During this stage people may feel like they need to lash out at others; this could be physical (through hitting or punching) or verbal (through yelling and screaming). I purchased a heavy bag to help with this stage.
3. Bargaining: You may try to bargain with God (or anyone else) to bring your loved one back in exchange for something you will do or give up. You’ll try anything to bring the person back, even if it means you have to promise something that is impossible for you to do (like “I’ll never cut my hair again,” or “I won’t eat any sweets”).
4. Depression: After bargaining, we move squarely into the present and now. Empty feelings start to creep up and it can be hard to get out of bed. It feels like it will last forever but remember always “this too shall pass”. It’s important to understand that this type depression is normal. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. It’s ok to want to withdraw from life and have question whether you want to go on. This stage was the hardest to get through and some people don’t make it.
5. Acceptance: This is sometimes confused with being content or OK with what happened. That is not the case, this stage is about accepting the reality that this person is gone and moving forward in life. Understanding the new normal and accepting the fact that this person is no longer here in being. My acceptance stage started when i was able to appreciate the 21 years I did have vs being mad about the the times that I dont.
Gratitude and Moving On
When my father passed away, I didn’t know where to begin. He was gone and I was left behind. Now it’s been 15 years since his passing and I have come to the place where I am able to reflect on the good memories and miss him but not be consumed by the grief that followed his death. Remember the person they were before their death and appreciate those times/memories.
Gratitude and appreciation are the most important components of dealing with grief and loss. To have gratitude is to be and feel thankful for what one has, or for what one has been given. Gratitude is a feeling that often begins a process of healing.
Gratitude can be an antidote to the negative emotions that are sometimes the by-products of grief. In death, people grieve the life they had with their loved one, but they also grieve the loss of future dreams and plans. Often it is in that place, where a new sense of gratitude comes in to help them move on.
Gratitude is different than thankfulness but there is some overlap between the two concepts. Both can involve similar feelings; however gratitude is more encompassing and can be felt in a wider variety of circumstances than thankfulness.
When you are grateful you recognize that you have received something valuable from someone who cared about you, even if that person died before expressing their gratitude directly (unlike say when you receive a gift). This recognition helps with healing because it encourages you to focus on positive emotions as opposed to negative ones like anger or sorrow.
I have been seeing a therapist since I was teenager and I firmly believe there everyone needs a therapist. Therapy provides a professional, non partisan ear to help you get through your shit. I have yet to attend a session and not come away with solutions for my problems which is why i keep coming back. Therapy helps build real world coping skills which are crucial when dealing with a loss. There are remote options now through better help so there is really no excuse.
It’s important to talk about, but often difficult to process. Now that you know more about loss and grief, we hope you feel a bit more prepared for dealing with such a profound loss.