What We Learned from Losing a Parent

No matter your age, the world is turned upside down when a parent dies. So many Bronx-area families who come to Woodlawn to find the perfect resting place for their loved one talk to us about this specific and significant loss. We wanted to write this blog to help others know they are not alone as they cope during the days, weeks, and months after the funeral and burial are over.

If your mother or father has died, perhaps you can relate to these thoughts.

“It hasn’t sunk in that my dad is gone for good.” If you kept in touch with a parent by talking on the phone, it’s common to pick up the phone to call them. Then comes the realization that no one will answer. It’s time like this that a death doesn’t feel real. Maybe Dad will walk in the door after work any second, or Mom will contact you about upcoming plans. Whether a parent’s death was sudden or long anticipated, it’s tough to grasp that they were here one day and gone the next.

“I’m so tired and haven’t felt well in weeks.” Hearing news of a parent’s death . . . Meeting to plan the funeral and burial . . . Writing the obituary . . . Attending the service . . . These steps are all exhausting in their own way. They require a lot of energy – physically and emotionally. Prolonged stress also affects the body through stomachaches, headaches, digestive issues, and even vertigo. It can take many months to feel like yourself again.

“I took the news of Dad’s death much harder than my siblings did.” Everyone reacts differently to death and grief. While one person may isolate and avoid talking to anyone, another might find it helpful to discuss their feelings with someone every day. One may be angry over the circumstances surrounding the death, while the other is more accepting.

“The death was a relief after so many months of health problems – but then I felt guilty about being relieved.” The emotions following a death are confusing and complicated. While it’s a relief for someone’s suffering to be over, a new kind of grief sets in that may involve guilty feelings over what could have been done differently. Conflicting emotions can exist at the same time and it can help to talk these out with a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor.

“I wanted to just move on with my life and stop thinking about my mom.” Many people attempt to manage their grief by ignoring it. It’s easier – and at times, more pleasant – to stay busy than deal with sadness, regret, anger, or other challenging emotions. Usually, the days after a death are chaotic, with decisions to make, meetings to have, and people to contact. But when life quiets down and a new wave of grief rolls in, it’s important to find the support you need to work through feelings in a healthy way.

It’s said that losing your mother or father is like losing a part of yourself. If you’re struggling with the loss of your parent, there are aftercare resources available, both digital and in print. You may consider seeing a therapist or grief counselor in person or joining a grief support group.