Losing a parent is a very unique form of loss for a number of reasons. The bond between a parent and their child is unlike any other in the world. From our first steps to our first stumbles, our parents are there with us through all things to offer love, support, and guidance. Even as we grows older, there is always a sense that our parents are there to care for us if we need them (which tends to be more often than we'd like to admit). When you lose a parent, it can often feel like the safety net you've had all along is torn out from beneath you. And yet, it is one of the few experiences of loss that we are all more or less guaranteed to face. In spite of this fact, however, it is impossible to ever be fully prepared for the grief one feels when a parent passes away. Here are some important things to remind yourself that will help you cope with the grief following the loss of a parent.
You're never "too old" to grieve.
When losing a parent when you, yourself, are no longer a child, there is sometimes the pressure to behave and grieve "like an adult". Don't let that keep you from fully engaging with your feelings of loss! Simply because you are no longer a child does not mean you cannot express your grief-- there is no such thing as being "told old" to grieve
Everyone grieves differently.
If you feel like crying, let yourself cry. If you don't cry at all, don't feel like you should be crying. Everyone expresses grief in way that is unique to themselves, and it is almost impossible to predict what that expression of grief will look like until you have experienced a great loss first hand. Do what feels right for yourself, and don't worry about how it may or may not appear to others.
Be selective with what you hold onto.
The temptation when losing someone close to you-- in particular, a parent-- is to hold onto every conceivable thing they have left behind. Though it is true that keeping certain belongings of theirs, such as favourite jewelry or photos, is certainly a wonderful way to remember your parents; it is often best to try not to keep absolutely everything of theirs hoarded in your basement. This sometimes makes it more difficult to move forward with your grieving process.
Ask friends and family for stories.
Though our parents are undoubtedly significant figures in our lives, we often only know a limited side of them: the part of their identity that is tied to having raised us. Asking other family members and friends of theirs for stories about them before you were born can add to the image you preserve of them in your memory in a very beautiful way.
Forgive yourself for being human.
We all have, at some time or another, butted heads with our parents. Whether it was saying something hurtful or acting out in some way, we all sometimes treat our parents in a way we later regret. As such, it is normal with the loss of a parent to feel feelings of guilt about things one may have done or said in the past. The important thing to remember is that everyone makes mistakes, and parents know that when we do or say hurtful things it is usually only because we know they will forgive us in the end. Parents love us unconditionally, and they know we love them, too-- even when we may not act like we do.
Working through grief takes time.
The most important thing to keep in mind when experiencing loss is that grief is an ongoing process that, unfortunately, knows no definitive end. Over time, we learn to cope with our feelings of loss, and are more easily able to reflect on the memory of our loved one with happiness rather than sadness. This transition takes patience with ourselves, which can be very difficult. Just remember that each day, you will learn more about how to engage with and manage your grief, and each day you will be more readily able to reflect on the life of your parent with a smile.