It is said that losing a parent is a rite of passage but in truth it is a fundamental heartbreak that may never be resolved. Thoughts of how you treated your parent when you were younger can torment and twist. Questions of ‘Did I tell them how much I loved them?’ plague dark nights of wakefulness. Depending on your age at the time of their passing you may have abandonment issues, unresolved anger or resentment or even non-contact issues. No matter what the ‘problem’ was, the vast majority of us grieves their passing and wish for more time with them.
Even with prior notice of serious health conditions, a death is never fully comprehended until it happens. We all have our own coping tools and beliefs which, in part, can temper the pain. Maybe it would help to try and not dwell on their death but on the memories of your time with them. Personally I ‘talk’ to my father often, usually when I walk my dog and am close to nature. He loved all flora and fauna so I feel his presence all around me as I remember him teaching me the names of plants, trees, animals and birds. If I close my eyes tightly I can actually ‘feel’ his hand in mine – it gives me great comfort even though I still miss him every single day.
I experienced the classic stages of grief although maybe not in the particular order envisioned. Firstly there was shock & denial when told his cancer had returned and was in his spine. Something I could not really deny as I was a nurse at one point and that sort of knowledge doesn’t leave you so I knew what the outcome would be. It was just a matter of when. I did become angry and bargained with the hospital staff as I had promised my father I would make sure he went home and didn’t die in the cold sterile world of a hospital ward. It took most of the day to arrange an ambulance and at one point I contemplated stealing one! During this time I was comforting both my parents and relaying news to my siblings on the telephone – it was a dark emotional day for me. With Christmas just mere days away I was frantic to grant my father this last wish. My pain was increased as I found it very difficult to understand what my father was saying to me – his last words and I could not comprehend them. This resulted in my suffering dreadful guilt for many months even though my mother and siblings told me I had done all I could to ensure he came home to die.
Once he was home we sat with him taking turns around the clock so he was never left alone. Even though we had a nurse on hand we wanted him to know his family was with him. When the time came we were standing beside his bedside holding his hands and each other. I placed one hand on his chest and willed him to be released from the cancer ravaged body that trapped his soul. Asking him to go was very hard but deep down I knew he would find his favorite uncle waiting for him and that gave me peace in the moment.
I kept my feelings of loss hidden from my mother, brothers and sister immediately after he passed to comfort them. Then crept upstairs alone to cry my heart out – my whole body hurt. The older of my brothers found me, embraced and comforted me saying I had always been Daddy’s favorite. We gathered for that Christmas but his absence was very hard to bear even the youngsters were subdued.
In the subsequent years I have felt depression and loneliness but also comfort in reflection and a strong belief that he is still with me. So my advice is to spend extra time with a loved one, even if it is a double edged sword. You want as much time as possible with each other but the loss will hurt even more when they go but please resist the urge to distance yourself as the pain of ‘why didn’t I?’ hurts all the more.
In the profound words of John Edward, renowned psychic – Communicate, Appreciate and Validate – your loved ones every day. Life is too short for petty arguments and self righteous thoughts and actions. Tell them whilst they are still with you and spare yourself some of the pain of loss. If you know, in your heart of hearts, that you did your utmost to show your love when they could receive it the grief is slightly easier to bear.