Truth be told, I have been waiting to write about this for a while now. But something always stopped me. “Am I healed enough to speak on the topic?” was a question that would cross my mind often.
I think that is the thing about experiencing the death of a loved one — I don’t think you ever actually fully heal. You’re never going to completely go back to the original person you were before losing them. That person leaving your life is going to change who you are and how you think.
So here we are. I lost my father unexpectedly six years ago, when I was 17 and entering a pivotal time in my life. I feel as if I am finally at a healthy point in my life where I can offer guidance to others who are going through something similar.
We will all experience the death of a loved one at one point or another, but there is something especially humbling about losing a parent. There is something about the person who brought you into this world no longer being there that hits harder than the rest. As a kid, you look up to your parents as if they are indestructible. Then, one day the realities of life hit and they are just gone. Even though I don’t believe there’s ever a time where you become completely healed, I can say it does get better and it does get easier.
Though it may seem tough right now and you may be filled with pain and heartbreak, I promise you will come out of it stronger than before. You’re going to grow and learn. You’ll begin to look at life from a different viewpoint — as someone who values the little things in life and never takes a single day for granted.
If you are currently coping with the death of a parent, I extend my sincerest apologies for your loss, and I hope I can provide with you some relief through this grieving process with these things I learned through my own loss:
Take time for yourself
It is so important to take a break from the everyday stressors to allow yourself time to process it all and to adjust. This is a time to focus on yourself and to just breathe. You don’t owe anyone else an explanation right now. This also involves making sure you are taking care of your health. When you lose a parent, you will go through all different sorts of emotions. You’ll be angry, confused, sad — there’s no right or wrong way to feel. Allow yourself the proper time to feel those emotions.
Lean on your friends and family
Remember all those times you’ve been there for your friends during hard times? Now it is your turn to lean on those friends for support. Seek out the people who can understand what you are going through. When someone offers you help, let them. Even if you don’t feel like talking with them, sometimes it is nice just to have a person who cares about you sit in silence with you while you grieve.
Learn more about your parent
For me, one of the hardest parts to overcome even now is never really knowing my dad outside of his role of being a parent. I lost my parent at a younger age, so I missed the opportunity to get to know who he was as a person and to grow a friendship that develops between parents and their kids as they get older. Talk to people that knew them. Ask them their favorite memories or stories. I guarantee you will learn something new every time.
Talk or write to them
This one may feel weird at first, but sitting in a quiet space and talking to your loved one who has passed can be a great source of relief. You can also choose to write a letter to them. This is a great opportunity to release any pent up feelings that you don’t want to share with anyone else. If you didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to your loved before they passed, this can give you the ability to write down everything you would have said to them.
If you don’t feel like this is something you can overcome by yourself, that is completely fine. A lot of people find comfort and relief from talking it out with a professional through grief therapy. Another option is looking up local support groups in your area to talk to people who can relate to you.
Don’t rush it
There is no time frame for when you are supposed to feel better. Some people go through the grieving process quickly, while others take a long time. Feel free to give yourself as much time as you need. When you lose a parent you lose a significant part of who you are. Healing isn’t going to happen overnight, and for some, may be a constant process.
Most importantly, grieve how it feels comfortable to you. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel. Don’t let anyone force you to cope in ways that don’t feel natural to you. Everyone will experience it a little differently. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a few years or even how I’ll feel in a couple months, but right now it feels good to be at peace with the things you cannot change.