Coping With The Loss Of A Parent

When a parent dies it seems your whole world crumbles. Grief is a natural following to death, but it can be a difficult phase when you are forced to cope with the death of a parent.

Death is a normal life process. It is something that we all have in common. We will all experience the death of someone we know and in the end, experience death ourselves. It is never a truly pleasant experience for the deceased, and especially for the living.

The death of a parent is unmistakingly a horrid experience. It affects the child of that parent in various ways, but one thing is the same: a hole is created and your world becomes seemingly shattered.

I witnessed my father's death first hand. We were gathered at a restaurant to celebrate the family getting together when he was struck by a sudden and massive heart attack that took his life in under five seconds. I performed CPR, knowing that it was already too late. In that brief time between his actual death and the arrival and work of the paramedics, my life spun out of control. And while my life was spinning, I realized that so would the lives of my mother and daughter.

Death for the family entails grief, heartache, pain and sorrow, often times in immeasurable amounts. For someone who witnessed a sudden death, questions of why and doubts of having been able to do more always cross the mind. Even when the situation was one that was unpreventable, the doubts and questions always linger.

Grief has different stages that all mourners will face, each at its own time and in its own pace. These stages include: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. A person may be in the denial phase of grief for years after a death, while others flow easily to the acceptance phase. This is a very intimate experience and one that is different for everyone.

In the death of my father, my phase of denial occurred immediately at his death. I didn't want to accept or believe and I tried to tell myself that it wasn't happening. For me, this phase quickly ended when three days later I had to go to the morgue to identify the body via a Polaroid picture. I was then plummeted head first into the most intense anger I have ever felt: Anger at the world, at the doctors, and at everything that represented the life I would never again have with my dad.

My daughter was present that night my dad died. She was asleep through the entire horrifying ordeal, but was aware later on that he had died in the restaurant. At five, her understanding of death is limited, but she has enlightened me and her innocence and questions took me out of the anger phase and into her own phase of bargaining. The hardest thing I have yet had to do was to explain to my daughter that not even if she were very good and never did anything bad again could her Papa come back.

It is almost ten months since my fathers death and I accept that this loss is real and that no matter what I did, there was nothing I could have done more to save him that evening.

Now, together with my daughter, we work through bouts of crying and sadness that are sometimes so intense only sleep can take away the pain at that time.

How long does the sorrow last. If you ask my daughter, she will tell you it is forever.

Grieving is very stressful, mentally and physically. It is so easy to neglect yourself when you are in mourning. How easy to get up and not shower, to sit in a chair with a bowl of ice cream and ignore those around you and your responsibilities. How easy it is to become so isolate from the world that even you don't recognize yourself.

What worked for me, to get right back into work and life, may not be good for others. Having my daughter around, I needed to be strong and in control. Others do not have this to help in their grief. A support system is vital, friends and family may not have experienced your similar loss, but they will support and love unconditionally.

Getting back to a regular, healthy routine may be extremely difficult, but it is also something that is vital and necessary. Rely on your friends and family and take care of yourself.

Pain can grab us and hold on so tightly that it feels like it is crushing us completely. Letting go of the pain is a scary thought. I was afraid that if I let go of the pain and agony of my dad's death, that it would seem that I didn't love him so much. Now I realize that letting go of the pain has allowed me to remember him in so many ways. These memories have brought me joy and sorrow, but they keep him alive in me. Through letting go of the pain, I have let in the joy of what memories I have.

Holidays, special days, and events that occur where he would have had a special role, are all more difficult than the day to day. It is hard to not stop and think that Dad would have loved to do certain things or have been at certain events, but I go on and do all that he would have wanted to for me, my family and all for my dad.

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