Even with advanced knowledge of impending death, there’s no way to prepare for the heavy emotions that follow the loss of a loved one, especially someone close to you. Even someone who is in an emotionally stable state will inevitably be shaken by the loss of a parent.
If you’re wondering how to deal with a death in the family, there’s no perfect formula for healing. However, there are some common threads to coping with the death of a parent. In this article, we’ll share how you can bear through the stages of grief and manage the feelings that come along with it.
How to deal with a death in the family
The stages of grief are some of the most helpful tools for understanding and handling death. At first glance, the stages may seem vague or simplistic. After living through a death in the family, though, you may find the stages of grief are tools for verbalizing your feelings, normalizing your experiences and progressing through the natural reactions of bereavement.
The initial response after losing a parent is characterized by shock and disbelief. Suspending the harsh reality of death can make it possible to survive. This dulls the inevitable pain because it allows us to embrace it slowly. Especially with the loss of a parent, who may have always been there for you, denial is a method of coping.
You may feel that you’re not an angry person, but anger (whether it presents as silent frustration at the unrighteousness of the situation or fuming fury), is a normal stage in coping with the death of a parent. Your mother or father may have lived to a ripe old age and died in peace, but anger can still be present.
The third stage of grief after a death in the family is bargaining. This is a questioning stage, and it often has spiritual components as one questions their deity. You’ll know you’ve landed in this phase when your mind is filled with “what if” statements. If you lose a parent due to medical reasons or an accident, it’s common to linger in this phase, thinking of all the other scenarios that could have been.
Bargaining is focused on the past, and depression occurs when we start to pay attention to the present and feel deep sorrow. The loss of a parent can bring heavy grief and lead a person to miss and crave his or her presence. The loss can feel so strong it creates physical symptoms like fatigue and headaches.
Losing a parent can leave an irreplaceable hole in a person’s heart. While your loved one will always be missed, there’s a certain point that comes with healthy grieving when a person has cycled through all of the tough emotions and found they are able to move forward, carrying less of the pain every day.
The stages of grief are not the same for everyone and they will present in unique ways for every individual, but it’s normal to experience the above-mentioned emotions. When you know what you’re likely to face, you’ll find that coping with death is easier and you’ll be that much closer to peace.
Keys to coping with death
There’s no easy way out of grief, and no way to avoid the painful reactions that follow. However, you can use these tools to bear through the rough days and start to build your new normal.
Embrace your emotions
Hiding from them, ignoring them or only allowing yourself to feel certain emotions that are considered more acceptable is a recipe for trouble. You’ll find that your healing is stagnant when you don’t let yourself feel your emotions.
Understand that all feelings are valid
It’s possible that you had a poor relationship with your parent, found out surprising information after his or her death, were not in contact or had peculiar circumstances that make grief feel abnormal. Know that your feelings (even the contradicting ones) are all acceptable and necessary to move on.
Participate in rituals
While it might feel like a chore to attend a ceremony honoring your late parent, rituals are some of the most effective tools for healing and moving forward. An event gives you a concrete outlet to have closure and move out of denial.
Return to your routine
Getting back to normal doesn’t have to be rushed, but it shouldn’t be drawn out either. In fact, most people find that returning to routines is key to coping with the death of a parent. Going to work, grocery shopping, spending time with friends, exercising— all these tools can help you refocus on positive aspects of your life and keep your thoughts from ruminating on grief.
Enjoy their favorite activities
When you lose a family member, try making regular plans to partake in one of their favorite activities. This exercise promotes healing but brings up positive memories and dedicates specific time to remembrance. When you designate a specific time and place to reminiscence, you’ll feel more in control of the grieving and have an activity you can continue for years. You can even invite other loved ones to partake with you.
Wherever you are in your grief process, you deserve support in coping with death. The Light Program provides counseling to those who are faced with all of life’s challenges and can be key to your healing process. Get started today by calling The Light Program.