- Karen M. McPhail
Losing a Parent
It is never easy to lose a parent. There is simply no way to prepare for this life altering event. Our parents are often times our best friends, our idols, our support system, the ones that we can always depend upon, the ones that love us unconditionally - and within the blink of an eye they are gone and our life is forever changed. At first we become forced to push forward and set our grief aside to focus on the tasks at hand. In a clouded daze we begin planning the funeral, memorial services, reception, writing the obituary, knowing that this must be done the right way and be nothing short of exceptional. Friends and family gather to provide support, share stories and memories all while we still feel as if it is all just a bad dream. After the funeral we return home exhausted and emotionally drained by the endurance trial in which we have had to push through. Then the emptiness finally starts to creep in- they are gone, you cannot pick up the phone to call them, you cannot hold their hand, and you begin the slow and difficult process of grieving.
Everyone copes and moves through the stages of grief in a different way. And almost everyone is familiar with the 5 stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, so I will not go over them. People often discuss these stages when someone has suffered a loss. Nevertheless, what many people do not realize is that the 5 stages of grieving were not written for those suffering from a personal loss, the stages were written for those dealing with dying. There are many resources out there, including self help books and articles on grieving and acceptance. However, only you know the answer to what you really need and what will help you to move forward.
When I lost my mother I was in shock and disbelief. This amazing, larger than life person that had filled my life with love, kindness, laughter, and special memories was now gone and I felt as if a part of me had died too. I could not eat or sleep and for a time I let sadness and guilt consume and inhibit me from living my life. Over the years I have counseled and assisted many client families in managing and moving past their grief. I have listened, guided, and have helped them to move forward in a positive way, and now I was left wondering who I would rely upon. How would I move forward. Could I move forward? I immediately turned to books and other literature looking for an answer, relief, and a way to escape my sadness, but to no avail.
Then one night in frustration I began to write down my feelings. The emotion and words began to pour out of me onto the paper while my hands shook and the tears streamed down my face. I cried for quite some time that evening, but I had a true breakthrough that night and was ready to begin the process of moving forward. So each evening before bed I cleared my mind and then began to write. The emotions, the feelings, the frustration, the anger, the fear all began to fill the pages of my journal until one day I started to feel better. I started to focus on the positive memories and felt gratitude for the special times that I had had over the years with my mom. Even the bad times along the way became a positive learning experience. I became hopeful and knew that more special memories would be built over time with others. Yes, the holidays are still little difficult at times, but I am now able to embrace life and living in positive way. So what I am trying to say is that there is no real prescription for grieving as the answer and solution lies within you. It is your process to work through in your way and on your timeline. For some individuals exercise works well, while others prefer prayer, meditation and yoga. Counseling and support groups are often helpful in sharing emotions and thoughts, but not for everyone. Be true to yourself and find what brings you moments of peace, joy, hope, and closure. Surround yourself with caring people who will listen, allow you to openly express your feelings, and who understand. Be patient and give yourself time. Along the way, take care of your health and be self focused for sometime. Be in the moment do not look back with regret, guilt, or second guess choices and most importantly show yourself compassion. You are allowed to keep living. If your grief becomes to much to carry, seek out guidance from a professional- grief is not a journey that is best travelled alone. You will always miss your family member, but you will learn to cope and be able to move forward over time.
I wanted to include a link below to a beautifully written blog entry by Brian Cuban. I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and knew Brian very well as a child. I was the little sister of one of his friends and was probably a bit of a nuisance at times as I was always tagging along, trying to play flag football, basketball, or street hockey. Brian recently lost his father and has been working through the grieving process. I have included the link to his website and recent blog entry relating to his journey. I hope that this piece, that is so much more than a mere blog entry, touches you as much as it did me.
Traversing the terrain of grief-