Every time there is a death there is loss, and every time there is loss there must be grief in order for those who suffer to heal and recover.
Unfortunately, we aren’t very good at acknowledging loss. Maybe we are embarrassed or have been trained to “keep it together”. Or maybe we have come to believe some of the nonsense that we have been fed over the years.
Things like, “crying is for the weak” or “don’t feel sorry for yourself, so many others are so much worse off” or “Grief is selfish, how can you feel bad, what about the poor person who died, you didn’t see them feeling sorry for themselves.”
It’s all silly of course, and all of this kind of thinking comes from being uncomfortable or from our inability to grasp the consequence of not dealing with life’s losses.
One place where there are often misconceptions is in the case of older people or the elderly dying.
There is often the feeling that “ they have lived their life” or “ it’s not that sad. They were old after all”.
Every time there is a death there is loss and an empty spot is formed. Someone is lonely, someone is sad, or someone has had a gapping hole created in their life.
When parents die, and here I mean older parents, parents who have adult children, there is grief that is real and painful.
In fact, I have often witnessed more acute pain over the death of an “older” parent than over any other death.
Our parents are our cornerstones. They are where we have come from and they form a link to who we are, our past, our heritage and in many ways to why we are the way we are.
Even though he was 89, Karen was devastated when her dad died.
“ He was my anchor, my rock. No matter what happened in my life he was always steady and wise, always there for me without judgment or a lot of words. He just loved me, for 48 years, he just loved me.”
Not all parent- child relationships can be as beautifully remembered as Karen’s but the sting often remains, just the same.
I remember very clearly when Charlie described the death of his mother as leaving him an orphan.
I am 51 years old and yet at this moment I feel as though I am completely and utterly alone. My parents and I didn’t always have the best relationship but they were there nevertheless. Now I am alone, it’s all up to me.
I remember being profoundly touched when Charlie described his feeling of being orphaned.
Wendy’s response to her mother’s death was very different.
All my mother and I ever did was disagree and argue. I am glad that’s over but I am still left with a hole and so much psychological work to do. I wish we could have done things differently.
Our parents, regardless of their age are often our stability. They also provide a buffer for us to the rest of the world.
For some that buffer is financial, for other it’s psychological. Once your parents are gone, the buffer is removed, now you are parentless or as Charlie said, an orphan. You are also now the next generation to have to face aging and eventually death.
Try not to let societies inability to deal with the pain of death deter you from your feelings.
Try not to be too brave or too strong.
Try not to avoid feeling sorry for yourself.
Your parents were and probably still are vitally important to you and the significance of that relationship ought not to be diminished.
Find someone who will listen to your feelings without making judgments about you and your emotions.
Find someone who will be patient and understanding, someone who is able to rise above silly, social clatter.
The death of an older parent, even when you are well into adulthood is significant and needs to be treated as such. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.