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The Cycle of Life: Coping tips for when you have lost a parent

It is spring. . . again. Days are longer, air is warmer. Nature appears to wake up after the cold and darkness of winter. Easter and Passover remind us of life cycles of death, hope, then renewal. Memorial Day reminds us of others’ sacrifices to protect our country and way of life.
It also signals the start of summer and vacation season.

So, too, arrives the recognitions for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. These celebrations may evoke strong emotions and are perhaps more personal than other “holidays,” especially if one or both parents have died.

Nature has a rhythm, a suggested order that generally gives us comfort and assurance. Then circumstances change things. We experience loss. The death of a child is devastating no matter how old the child, and feels outside “natural order.” The loss of a parent for many is immensely painful, even when the parent lives well into old age. How we manage those losses and incorporate them into our life’s rhythm is very important.

  • Understand that there is no way to be totally prepared. Losing a parent at any age is painful.
  • Avoid people who may belittle you or make you feel guilty for experiencing loss very deeply. Grief cannot be hurried, its intensity is real and you are entitled to feel whatever it is you feel.
  • Be kind to and patient with yourself. Grieving for a parent may frequently be exhausting emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
  • Seek lessons from the experience. Consider how you approach your own aging process. Ponder if you should work to become a better friend and partner. Learn how to express your love to others.
  • Accept that you may feel abandoned and lost.
  • A deceased parent continues to influence your life. You always are the child of someone.
  • Forgive yourself for being human and encounters with negative emotions toward your parent. Some parent-child relationships are troubled, all are complicated. When a parent dies, you may have a sense of guilt over unresolved past conflicts.
  • Seek out support from others who’ve been there, a trustworthy and empathetic friend who cares, or a professional who can help guide you through the grief process.
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