Death. It doesn’t matter how you choose to perceive it, the bottom line is that experiencing and dealing with it is one of the most difficult things any of us will ever do. The emotions involved are complicated and painful, and the thought of moving on may seem unreasonable, unbearable, and unconscionable. One might experience judgment from others for not crying, moving on too quickly, or doing the exact opposite – showing too much emotion or grieving for a long period of time.

What’s worse – and rarely discussed – is the added difficulty of mourning the death of an elderly parent. In our culture, there is this notion that death is somewhat expected after a certain age; therefore, it should be easier to handle. This often silences the griever because the mourning is not socially recognized. However, losing a parent at any age is a life altering experience. The essence of who you are is wrapped up in your parents. The effects will likely be more powerful than any other grief you will ever experience. Regardless, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. The grieving process is very personal and varies from person to person. What’s important is that you turn to your family, friends and/or a counselor to help support you through the process.

The Stages of Grief

  • Denial – This can’t possibly be happening to me.
  • Anger – Why is this happening to me? This is not fair. It’s all xyz’s fault.
  • Bargaining – I’ll do anything just to have him/her back.
  • Depression – I’m so sad without him/her, I don’t want to do anything.
  • Acceptance – I’m at peace and can go on with my life.

Not everyone goes through all of these stages, but it’s important to know that all of these emotions are natural.

How to Heal

  • You might want to push it all away, but that will only prolong the process. Don’t be afraid to face and feel your emotions.
  • Have the courage to express all those feelings. Write, paint, scrapbook, bike, run or get involved in an organization or cause your parent admired. The point is to celebrate their life in a positive way.
  • Remember the mind body connection. If you feel good physically, you’ll feel much better mentally. So sleep, exercise and put some good food in your belly. Take care of yourself; that’s what your parent would want.
  • Own your grief. Feel what you feel when you feel it and don’t let others tell you how you should or shouldn’t be feeling.

As time passes, know that your emotions will become less intense and you will be able to move forward. Everything will be okay. Some folks decide to make profound changes in their life. It may sound quite strange, but don’t be surprised if you end up finding something positive in the years that follow…a silver lining to the entire experience. You certainly wouldn’t be the only one. And don’t feel guilty about it – it’s not disrespectful; it’s all part of the journey.

Information taken from:  http://www.oprah.com/spirit/When-a-Parent-Dies-Dealing-with-the-Death-of-a-Parent/1 
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm
  

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living