coping with death of a parent

I suppose my father was lucky. He didn’t have time to suffer, or even to realize that he was dying. Lot’s of people later assured me that it’s the best way to die. However, his rapid passing from Aneurism, robbed me of the closure so necessary when coping with death of a parent.

The bond that exists between parents and children starts even before the birth. When the child is growing up, he relies on his parents for his very survival. Later in life, as the child becomes an adult, the dependency is reduced, however the bond still remains.

As the cycle of life continues, the roles reverse. And the grown child who was once the subject of attention, now begins caring for the elderly parents. The bond between children and their parents is only second to those of the adult child’s spouse and their own children.

If the parent passes while the child is young, it can stir feelings of abandonment. When the child is an adult, the death serves as a reminder of their own mortality. At any time, the death evokes powerful and long lasting emotions.

I was completely unprepared for my father’s death. Even when the parent has been in poor health for years, it’s almost never possible to be fully prepared for the grief. Since I was unable to have the opportunity for closure during my father’s life, I had to learn how to deal with death of a parent for years to come. Here are principles I learned along the way.

Allow Time to Mourn

When dealing with the loss of a parent, you simply can not move on until you let yourself mourn. If you try to convince yourself that the death was a timely, normal event, you will only get out of touch with your emotions. And while death is a natural cycle of life, it must be properly acknowledged and mourned.

Often, you may not have had the opportunity to express yourself to the parent during life. You may have emotions of guilt or regret on your part. Communicate your feelings to your parent now. Don’t hold back. Have their image in your mind, and express to them everything that you feel in your heart.

Share Your Feelings

When dealing with the death of a parent, keep in mind that you are not alone. Share your thoughts and feelings with other family members and close friends. They understand and share your experience. There is not a single adult in the world who has not been touched by death of a loved one. Also, join a support group or an online community.

It’s also helpful to write about your experience. You could write in a private journal, or out in the open in a blog or a magazine. Sharing your feelings is tremendously therapeutic to better understand yourself and your emotions. If needed, consult a professional counselor.

Create a Memorial

As a part of the coping process, it’s very helpful to create a memorial to your parent. This may be an official funeral or a church memorial, or a symbolic memorial such as making a donation in their memory, or planting of a tree. Think of what your parent would have wanted to be remembered by.

Draw on Your Faith

Death of a parent should serve as a reminder that in a big scheme of things, death is not the end of the road, but actually the continuation of the journey. Draw on your faith, to acknowledge this process, and pray for your parent’s spirit as it moves on.

Also, give thanks for the good times and memories that you’ve shared together in this life. Give thanks for the lessons you were taught by your parent and for the their love for you. Try to understand and embrace the cycle that we are all a part of.

In Conclusion

While death ended your parents physical life on Earth, it does not end your relationship with them. You are still their child and they will remain being your parent. Now that the spirit is set free, your bond can be stronger than ever. Remember that as long as you carry their memory in your heart, you will always be together. Take comfort in knowing that your parent still loves you.

Live well. Vlad

6 Responses to coping with death of a parent

  1. James April 19, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    Both of my parents are living, but both of them are also in their 70’s… A couple years ago it started to really hit me about them being gone at some point…

    The thing is, My Mom is My Closest Friend in the World… She’s basically My Best Friend…. Which has been great, but my god, I can’t imagine not having her to talk to anymore

    I am close to My Brother as well, but he’s been away for years living with his own Family

    Thanks for the Article, hopefully they’ll be around for a while, but it’s impossible to imagine how it will affect me


    • Vlad April 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi James, thanks for commenting. I am also very close to my mother, who is also in her 70’s. Try to spend time with your parents now. Don’t leave anything unsaid, express your love to them. Let them share their experiences with you. I find that there is so much I now wish I had talked about with my father.

      Hope this helps some!


  2. Suraj April 19, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    Useful suggestions here, Vlad. When my mum died, she was 50 and I was 25, so perhaps I was caught between thoughts around abandonment and my own mortality.

    At the time, what really helped me was to draw from the treasury of my faith and contemplate on the seed thought of what is permanent vs what is transitory (anitya bhavna).

    As for sharing feelings, what may help other readers is to book sessions with a bereavement support visitor. In many towns and cities, this is typically a free service. A visitor is not a counsellor, but an impartial person to speak with to help understand our own feelings about the loss.

    Vlad, I look forward to reading more about each of the areas you have covered in the post.


    • Vlad April 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      Suraj, thank you for sharing! You bring up really good points here. I agree with you about the impermanence of this life. Having a strong faith and spiritual connection, makes a huge difference when dealing with death.

      Dealing with grief should also reinforces that spirituality. Without suffering, we would have no reason to turn our attention to the Infinite.

      Be well, Vlad

      • Suraj April 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

        There are at least two triggers for turning our attention to the Infinite. One of the most common ways is through suffering and wanting freedom from it. The other is recognising how all worldly pleasures are merely temporary, seeking eternal bliss, and starting with the question “Who am I?”

        • Vlad April 20, 2012 at 2:10 am #

          Well put, Suraj. Thank you for the reminder of this timeless wisdom!

          By the way, I like the message of your blog.

          Take care, Vlad