Dealing With Grief: Coping Strategies

By: Rosemarie Tamunday Casanova

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Losing a loved one is one of life’s most stressful events and can lead to a major emotional crisis in the life of your family.

We all know in our hearts that death is a part of life. In fact, by reminding us of how precious life is, death gives meaning to our existence. And yet when a death occurs, it may lead you to experience a varied range of emotions, even when it was expected.

Losing a loved one is never an easy thing, but losing a parent comes with its own peculiar kind of grief. It is often said that the loss of a parent is akin to the loss of your past. Your parents have always been present since the time of your birth. Learning to live life without them takes a lot of getting used to no matter how old they were when they died.

Whatever your relationship with the parent who died – good, bad or indifferent, your feelings for them were probably quite strong.

At the end of the day, most of us love our parents deeply and they equally love us with the most unconditional love that imperfect human beings are able to express. It is not easy coping with the death of a loved parent. You will expectedly mourn and grieve.

Mourning is a natural process that you pass through to in order to accept a major loss. It may include religious traditions that honour the dead, or get together with friends and family to share your loss. Mourning is personal and may sometimes last for several months or even years.

Grieving is the outward expression of your loss. You are likely to express it physically, emotionally, and psychologically. For example, crying is a physical expression, while on the other hand, depression is a form of psychological expression. It is very important to give yourself leave to express these feelings.

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Dealing With Grief: Coping Strategies

Coping with death is important for your mental health. It is very natural to experience grief with the death of a loved one. Allow yourself to grieve. There are several strategies to cope effectively with your pain and grief:

Realize that your grief is unique

The parent-child bond is probably the most fundamental of all human ties. The death of your mother or father leads to the tearing of that bond. As a response to this loss, you may feel a barrage of strong emotions including numbness, fear, guilt, confusion, relief and anger.

Sometimes, these emotions will follow each other in quick succession, or they may occur simultaneously. You may take time to explore these feelings and come to terms with them:

Sadness; You probably expected to feel sad with your parent’s death, but the overwhelming depth of your feelings of loss may take you by surprise. It is only natural to feel deeply sad. Allow yourself to feel this way and embrace your pain.

Relief; If your parent was ill for some time before their death, you may well feel relief when they finally die. This feeling of relief may be particularly strong if you were largely responsible for your ill parent’s care. It does not mean that you did not love your parent. Rather than that, your relief at the end of their suffering is a natural outflow of your love.

Allow yourself to feel whatever you might be feeling; do not judge yourself or try to repress your painful thoughts and feelings.

Brace up to feel a multitude of emotions

If it is possible, arrange to have family come to you.

It might be a bit disruptive getting your aged family members into and out of cars, setting them up in a new environment, and getting them used to the new sights and sounds.

As elderly people love established patterns, this may not be the best especially if they are battling with a cognitive impairment.

Relatives can be encouraged to come spend the holidays instead. You could put them up in nearby lodgings if they can’t all fit in your house or if it’s their preference.

Recognize the impact of death on your entire family

If you have any brothers or sisters, the death of a parent may affect them differently than it is affecting you, as each of them would have likely had a unique relationship with the parent who died, and so each has the right to mourn in their own way.

The death of a parent could also stir up sibling conflicts; You and your siblings may come to disagree about the funeral arrangements, for instance, or argue about the family finances. Understand that such conflicts are natural, even though unpleasant.

Do your own part to encourage free communication during this stressful family time. You may discover on the other hand, that the death of your parent strengthens the bond between you and your siblings. If this is the case, welcome this gift.

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The surviving parent

When there is a surviving parent, try and understand the death’s impact on them. The death of a cherished spouse – a husband or wife of several decades—can have many different meanings to the surviving spouse than it does for you, a child of that union.

This doesn’t mean that you are necessarily responsible for the surviving parent; in fact, in order to heal, you should first and foremost meet your own grief needs. But it however, means that you, being younger and often more resilient, should remain patient and compassionate as you continue in your relationship with the surviving parent.

Reach out to others for support

Grieving a parent’s loss may be the hardest work you have ever done. And as we know, hard work is less burdensome when others lend a helping hand. If your parent was aged, you may discover that others may not fully acknowledge your loss.

As a culture, some persons tend not to value the elderly so much. Some see them as having outlived their usefulness instead of regarding them as a source of great wisdom, experience and love. Therefore when an elderly parent dies, we tend to say, “Be thankful. They lived a long, fulfilled life”.

Seek out persons who acknowledge your loss and would pay attention to you as you express your grief. Sharing your pain with others will not make it go away but over time, would make it more tolerable.

Pay attention to your health

Your emotions of grief and sadness will likely leave you tired out. Nurture yourself. Try and get adequate rest. Eat healthy and balanced meals. Lighten up your schedule as much as possible.

Postpone any major life decisions and changes

Try and hold off on making any important changes like moving, changing jobs, or having another child. Give yourself some time to adjust to your loss.

Postpone any major life decisions and changes

Treasure your memories

Even though your parent may no longer physically be with you, they live on in your memories. Treasure these memories. You can share them with your family and friends.

Understand that your memories may make you cry or laugh but in either case, they represent a lasting and important aspect of the relationship you had with your parent.

You may also consider creating a lasting tribute to your parent-child relationship such as planting a tree, or putting together a special memory container with photos and other keepsakes.

Moving on

To live and love fully again, you must mourn. You would likely not heal except you let yourself openly express your grief.

Remember that grief is a process and not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. With support, effort and patience, you will survive grief.

Someday the pain will reduce, leaving you with mostly cherished memories of your loved one.