Although it will happen to us all, the loss of a parent is always a major shock in our lives and a time of grief and sadness. Everyone copes in their own way, but some will find it more difficult than others. Some of the ideas on these pages may help you to cope if you have lost your father or mother.
It can help enormously to get involved in the funeral arrangements and make sure that your feelings are expressed. Whether that means that you write some words, or choose some music for the ceremony, it is good to be part of it.
If one parent is left behind, they will need a lot of support and it will help you to focus on their needs. Your brothers and sisters may also need support at this time if they are having difficulties coming to terms with the loss of their parent. It will help you to cope too if you all help each other.
One sibling might go into deepest despair, crying constantly and unable to to cope without help. Another may go into organisation mode. There are extremes of emotional moods and everyone grieves in their own way. It’s good to have family and friends around to help at the most difficult times.
It may be a comfort to know that suffering the loss of a parent is a huge crisis, but it will eventually make you a stronger person, more able to empathise with others, and to survive life’s challenges.
Shock and numbness are often the way nature controls the pain of loss in the early days. It differs widely in every individual. If someone is coping better, it doesn’t mean they are grieving less. Many people hide their emotions. Don’t imagine they need less support if they are coping like this.
The general chaos of the first few days helps to get through the initial shock. There is a lot to organise, relatives are arriving, there are flowers, cards and messages arriving. It can be quite overwhelming.
Following the funeral, everything gets back to some semblance of normality. But of course nothing is the same after the loss of a parent. Your role in the family has changed. You may need to take responsibility for the remaining parent. Your roles have reversed. You need to take care of them, make sure they keep busy, remember to eat, see friends. You might need to help them with finances and household maintenance, at least in the short term until they find their foot.
There may be pressing needs regarding downsizing the remaining parent’s home due to financial or coping alone concerns. Sometimes the remaining parent can not face up to living alone.
Remember that all the family are grieving. Try to talk to each other about what needs doing and ask for help, the child living nearest often feels pressured.
Allow yourself to grieve, but you can do it. Cope for the sake of your beloved parents. Remember they lost their parents too, and were able to move on. Caring for others helps you to bypass your own worries too. Get support for yourself too. People don’t know how you feel unless you tell them. Many people might not even realise you’ve suffered the loss of a parent. Choose one or two close friends to confide in. You need a shoulder to cry on during the difficult times.
But try and be cheerful and positive as much as you can. This gives friends and family more reason to enjoy your company. If you can’t do this, then consider getting professional help.