How To Deal With The Grief Of Losing A Parent
No one is ever prepared to deal with the loss of a parent. Even when the loss is expected, it still takes a long time to deal with the grief. The most important thing to remember when dealing with the loss of a parent is that there is no “normal” progression. There isn’t a standard template for grief, and everyone copes with this loss in a different way.
While there might not be a standard path through grief, there are some common steps you can take to make your grief easier to handle. This blog will explore some of the common emotions you can expect to experience when grieving a parent. We will also look at some common methods for handling your grief and finding a way to cope effectively.
What is grief and what can you expect?
Grief is a complex experience that can encompass a lot of conflicting emotions. Perhaps the most commonly accepted explanation of grief is the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle. This includes five stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
The five stages of grief are not always a linear progression. If a person does not get the support they need, they might struggle to ever get past the anger or depression stages. And some people might not experience all of the stages.
The pain of a loss can be overwhelming at times, so it’s important to be able to recognise when it’s all getting too much for you to handle. You might think that you have handled your grief correctly, only to be plunged back into despair at the smallest trigger. Learning to recognise these triggers may help you to deal with your grief more effectively.
And finally, it’s important to remember that the grief will not get smaller and disappear. When you are grieving a lost loved one, you are not waiting for the grief to go away. You are waiting for your own growth. You grow and the grief becomes easier to manage.
When you lose a parent, you may become responsible for caring for your remaining parent, which would require a lot of personal growth. Or you may be without parents for the first time, and you will have to learn to adjust to this seismic change.
Coping strategies for dealing with the loss of a parent
Learning to accept the loss of a parent is a long and winding journey. You might never feel that you have overcome your grief, but you will find it easier to cope as time goes on. Try these strategies for coping with the loss of a parent.
Understand the scale of your loss
You have known your parents for your entire life, so learning to live in the world without them is always going to be a big adjustment. If you had a complicated relationship with a parent who has passed away, this can make things even more difficult. Unresolved issues or feelings of guilt may rear their head at any point in the grieving process. Accept these feelings and realise that this is all part of the grieving process.
Plan a memorial
The act of planning a memorial can help you to process your grief and find closure. The time immediately after your parent’s death will feel like it will never end, but planning a memorial can help you to close this most difficult chapter of your life. It will keep your mind occupied and help you to plan for the future at a time when that seems like the last thing you can do.
Allow yourself to grieve
A common problem individuals face when they lose a parent is that they worry they are being silly or indulgent if they don’t just get on with things. It can be hard to see the world continue as usual and feel like you have to take a step back to be able to grieve, but it’s important to give yourself the opportunity to do this. You may need to take time away from work or reduce your hours for a period. This will help you to take care of your mental and physical health while you navigate this difficult time.
Give yourself time to decide what to do with the ashes
You don’t have to know the next steps straight away. Once you are given the ashes, don’t feel you have to decide what to do with them. You might want to scatter some, save some, and have some added to a piece of ashes jewellery. If you panic and scatter the ashes just to feel like you’re moving forward, you might regret this further down the line. Our unique memorial gifts will make it easy for you to keep their ashes with you at all times.
Design your ashes jewellery
If you decide you want to keep their ashes close to you, designing a piece of ashes jewellery can really help with this. We find that even the act of planning the piece can be very therapeutic. You’ll have the chance to choose the style, stone and setting. You could choose a classic glass pendant necklace or a modern bar pendant necklace. We also offer a number of memorial gift ideas that can help you to cope with your loss.
Don’t neglect your health
It might seem like the last thing you want to think about, but poor physical health can lead to poor mental health. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap and try to eat healthily, get plenty of exercise, and ask for help when you need it. A lot of people find that taking up a new sport such as running helps them to cope with their loss and depression.
Learn to say no
It can be tempting to throw yourself into work projects just to keep yourself busy, but this will only delay the grief, not replace it. Learn to go easy on yourself and say no to things that might stretch your capacity. This could include work projects, outings with friends, or other family commitments. When you lose a parent, you get to be a little bit selfish for a while.
Common myths about grief
You might come up against some of these common myths about grieving as you navigate the loss of a parent. Understanding what is relevant and what isn’t will help you to cope in the long term. If you’re struggling with any of these commonly held beliefs, remember that they aren’t true.
Myth: If you don’t cry, you don’t care.
Truth: Everyone expresses their emotion in a different way. Not crying at the funeral, the memorial or when sharing memories doesn't mean that you don’t care. You might be in shock, and the crying might come later. Or you might feel more comfortable expressing your emotions in private. How you deal with grief is deeply personal, and you should never feel that not crying means that you didn’t really care.
Myth: Grief will go away if you ignore it
Bottling up your feelings won’t make the grief pass any more quickly. You might find it easier to distract yourself for a short time, but you will need to process these feelings eventually. The healthier way to grieve would be to give yourself time to work through these feelings.
Myth: You should keep a stiff upper lip
Men, in particular, are prone to this type of thinking. The myth is that your family needs you to be strong, so you shouldn’t show any emotion. In reality, you could be helping everyone to process their grief by being open about your own feelings. Don’t think you have to hide anything to make those around you feel better.
Myth: It goes away after a year
Your grief may stay with you for the rest of your life, but you will learn how to live with it and cope with it. In the beginning, the smallest thing might trigger tears, but after a year, you might be able to control these emotions. There is no set timescale for grief, so don’t worry if you are still feeling sad after two years, or if you feel better after 6 months.
Myth: The only way to move on is to forget
This couldn’t be further from the truth. We never forget those we have lost, but we learn to see their memory in a new light. In the beginning, we grieve their loss and it’s natural to miss them. But after some time has passed, you might notice that your feelings change and you can remember them fondly without the associated pain of loss. If you are worried about moving on, we offer gifts to remember a loved one that will help to keep them close.
Steps to take if you feel you aren’t coping
If you feel that your grief is getting the better of you, it’s important to ask for help. This could be from your GP, a therapist, or even just a friend to start with. It can be difficult to know when it is time to get help, but if you feel that your grief has left you trapped in a depressed state and you are struggling to see a way out, it’s time to ask for help.
Asking for help doesn’t mean that you will have to talk about your grief if you don’t want to. Knowing that you are grieving is often enough for most professionals to know what you need to do next. You don’t have to know what help you need, you just need to ask someone to point you in the right direction.
If you have lost weight, you are experiencing intense emotional pain, you’re struggling to see how you will move on or you’re unable to focus on anything else, it’s time to ask for help. This could be a sign that you are fixating on the reminders, avoiding the reminders, or struggling to accept that the person is really gone. There is a healthy way to grieve, and asking for help can help you to find this.
How to help someone else through their grief
If you’re close to someone who is grieving the loss of a parent, there are a few things you can do to help them cope. Being a good friend during this time can be incredibly simple, all you need to do is be sensitive to their needs.
Offer to help with the heavy lifting. A common pitfall for many individuals grieving the loss of a parent is that they will have to empty their home and prepare it for sale. This can be emotionally distressing, but also a lot of hard work. Offering your assistance, even if it is only to help with moving heavy boxes can be a huge relief.
Be available to listen. An important thing for grieving individuals to remember is that their therapist is not their friend, and their friends are not their therapist. You don’t have to offer professional advice, but offering to listen to their problems can be helpful.
Help them to stay active. Staying active when you are grieving is one of the best ways to keep depression at bay. It doesn’t have to be an intense session at the gym, even something as simple as a walk in the park to help get the heart rate up. Exercise is one of the best ways to work through grief.
Deliver home-cooked meals. It’s easy to forget to eat when you are grieving, so home-cooked meals will always be welcome. Choose things that can be thrown in the oven with minimal effort.
Reach out every now and then. Grieving can leave you in an incredibly lonely place, so make sure you reach out occasionally to check how they are doing. Many people who are grieving notice that support tends to fall away after a few months, so be the friend that checks in regularly after this to make sure they are doing okay.