We expect to out live our parents, that is the natural order of life. With this understanding, why is it so difficult when one or both parents die?
The death of a parent changes so many aspects of one’s life. Often times a mother is the glue or communication hub of the family. When the mother dies and this role is no longer fulfilled it becomes difficult for families to stay connected. If the parent who died was the major breadwinner in the family then a financial burden arises upon his or her death. If the parent who died was the peacemaker, their absence causes a big hole in the family dynamics. If the parent who died was the caregiver for the spouse, additional issues arise in deciding how the surviving parent’s needs will be taken care of. The scenarios and challenges that surround the death of a parent are numerous.
When one parent dies, the concern or focus is on the well being of the other parent. In the meantime the grief that the children are experiencing gets forgotten.
“How old was she or he?” is one of the first questions someone will ask when they learn a parent has died. The problem is that it doesn’t change the pain of loss if the deceased was 98 or 58 years old. Our parents ground us, they are our roots, and now that one or both are dead, we feel “lost”, “unattached”, even “orphaned.”
You might gain comfort from knowing that you can keep your parent’s memory alive by carrying on family traditions, retaining family records and photos and keeping sentimental possessions and memorabilia.
Very often family dynamics are complicated and unresolved issues exist in family relationships. These conflicts rear their head at the time of death. Feelings of guilt, resentment, anger, shame and disappointment are often experienced upon the death of a parent. Know that these feelings are NORMAL and the good news is that the relationship can be healed even after death. This is accomplished through the transformative power of forgiveness. This is a difficult process but the results allow those negative feelings to be released and the relationship with the deceased parent to be healed.
Although most of us understand that we will at some point bury our parents, when it actually happens it is often painful, difficult and complex.