Losing a parent is one of the most soul-crushing experiences one can ever face. Because here you are, having to face the treachery of life without Mum or Dad to guide you. Who will you turn to when your world is falling apart? You cannot imagine life without the people who laid your foundation, instilled, in you, the values you held dear to your heart, and played a significant role in shaping your character. How can you imagine a life without them?
I get it.
And I wish I could tell you that you will forget and that time will heal all wounds, but I can't. Not when you lose a parent. Because, despite the years that will pass, your heart will jolt when you least expect it. That gnawing inside your heart, reminding you of the void your parents left behind.
The good news is that despite that blindsiding reminder, you will learn to cope with the pain while you move on with life.
My parents have been gone for a few years. Over the years, I have coped by doing the following:
Express your emotions
Most people often understand grief when it's still new. But when that grief lingers for months and years, people often feel bad that they are still in mourning. Having lost both m parents, I have found that you never stop grieving. Instead, you learn to do it in a healthy way.
So, do not suppress your feelings when you feel overwhelmed with sadness. Instead, embrace and express that pain. Cry. Spend time in bed, feeling sad if that is what you need to do. And if you have a support system, do not hide your vulnerable moments. It is OK to share your feelings and let others care for you.
Remembrance is an effective way of dealing with grief and working towards healing. Over the years, I have found comfort by focusing on the memories my parents and I created when they were alive. During those pensive times when my heart nudges away at me, I find healing by flooding my mind with the encouraging and uplifting words my parents said to me.
Even as the tears roll down my cheeks, my heart bursts with gratitude. And the pang gnawing away at my soul soon fades as I redirect my focus toward the invaluable treasures my parents left behind. The treasures money can't buy.
Writing the memories
If, like me, you enjoy writing, then start a gratitude journal about your parents. Writing, as a catharsis, is a great way to remember a parent. And in my case, it replaced pills and hours of therapy, sitting in an office. So, write down all the things you love about them. If you appreciate the lessons they taught you and the values and principles they instilled in you, write them down. Write what you miss the most about them. You can even write them a letter. Then, as you put pen to paper, your heart abounds with love, and you feel closer to them as you realise that, even though they are gone, they are still a huge part of you.
So, if you are a parent yourself, remember to give your loved ones the gift of creating memories while you're still alive- play games, go on holiday together, say everything you need to say to one another - I love you. I appreciate you.
Because those memories will become their anchor, source of strength, and sustain them when you're no longer around. Even though you won't be there to see them, rest assured they will treasure those memories.
To me, setting aside time to reminisce is more than just memories. The act takes things up a notch as you indulge in the presence of others by going down memory lane. Rifle through that treasure chest for old photos of your Mum and Dad and let your kids ask you questions about them. Let them sigh with awe as you explain how you captured your father's expression. Then, enjoy watching their eyes light up as you explain how fabulous the world regarded your mother's beehive or shoulder pads.
There are things my parents used to do and say that left a lasting impression on me. For example, my Dad was a funny man who spoke in riddles and gave inciteful anecdotes. So, I find the time to share these endearing qualities about my Dad with my loved ones. I recount all the funny stories my parents told me and all the silly things they used to do. As you enter this space of allowing your parents to come alive, fill your lungs with laughter.
Honouring your parents going down memories lane that fills your heart with laughter releases endorphins that help soothe your pain. Furthermore, you will soon realise that even though they are no longer around, they left you a piece of themselves.
No, I am not telling you to get a manicure or splurge on a new dress.
After losing a loved one, it is natural to be crippled with guilt. Perhaps the guilt of being alive, or wishing you could have been around more, loved more, done more, said or done something to change the outcome.
But with death, there are no do-overs. You cannot change what has happened. Therefore, you need to practice self-care by forgiving yourself. Give yourself that gift of compassion by being kind to yourself. Free yourself of guilt, bearing in mind that no one is perfect. If you missed an opportunity with your parents, remember, we are flawed creatures.
Therefore accept things you can not change. Forgive yourself for your flaws, omissions, and shortcomings if you did something wrong. Despite what you may feel right now, your parents would have wanted you to live a life free of that burden of guilt.
So, if you are dealing with grief, especially losing a parent, remember that you can and will get through this. Your pain will be replaced by something beautiful and real, which is the realisation that your parents are still a part of you.
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