When You Lose a Parent…

I have spent a lot of time preparing myself for a post like this one. I have known that I have wanted to write about the grief of losing a parent since I have started this blog. I struggled with when would be the best timing. Should I just make a post randomly? Would Mother’s Day be a good time? I settled on the anniversary of my Mom’s death.

June 8th. It is a day that will forever be etched into my memories. It has been 8 years and I still think about her every single day. I feel her in the breeze. I recognize certain occurrences as signs from her. I see her when I look in the mirror. It never stops hurting but it does get easier to cope with. Unfortunately, there is no universal manual to help you deal with the loss of a parent. I was not entirely sure how I even wanted to do this post, but it seems to have gone in the direction of detailing what I experienced and how I worked through those emotions.

Guilt

I beat myself up for so long after my Mom passed away. I know I was occasionally mean to her when I was younger and did things that she was not always happy about. I talked back to her, did not listen, or refused to help with chores. Parents of teenage girls – I am sure you know what I am getting at. The attitude is strong! After my Mom passed, I wanted desperately to be able to go back in time and react differently when she asked me to do something or tried to talk to me. I feared that maybe she did not realize how much I truly loved her and appreciated her. It forced me to see that a lot of people (myself included) really do tend to take the things they have for granted and do not even realize it until that thing is taken away from them. When I see children acting horribly to their parents, I get very upset. I know even the best kids still behave badly or talk back every once in a while, but that guilt that I feel over how I treated my Mom back then really makes me wish that I could show these kids how lucky they are that their parents are still here.

Guilt and regret can be normal responses to the death of a parent or loved one, but that does not mean that it is productive or healthy (in fact it can be quite the opposite). Sometimes it can be one of the hardest parts of the grieving process. We obsess over things that we did or did not do, the times we lashed out in anger or impatience, and the missed opportunities for expressing our love. Fortunately, there are many tried and true ways to cope with the guilt you may experience. Here is a link to some great ways to practice mindfulness and give yourself mercy when you feel you are to blame.

Anger

After the shock of it happening passes, anger is another common emotion that is felt. Apparently, it is very common that people feel that being angry is more acceptable than being sad. My Mother was greater than amazing. She would help people in any way she could. She was selfless. She loved God. And yet, for some reason, her time on Earth was cut to a short 51 years. Cancer was the culprit, so she DID suffer for her last bit here. I was glad she no longer had to suffer, but eventually that gave way to anger. Why was she taken so young? There are countless humans that are horrible people, yet they live on. Why do the good die young? And if she had to be taken so soon, why did she have to suffer the way that she did in the end? Anger is an emotion that I will admit I still need to work on. I work in a prison and am face to face with people everyday that have done some very horrible things. It is very hard to not have the thought “why her and not them?” cross your mind. I don’t want to be like this because I know it’s not good to feel this way. And it definitely will not bring her back.

We all know anger is not great for your health. When you are angry, there is a constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes which can eventually cause harm to different systems in your body. Anger ups your stroke risk and weakens your immune system. It also makes your anxiety or depression worse. It is very important to recognize your anger and try to find a more suitable outlet for it than by just having hostile outbursts. Here is some information on how anger is something that would allow you to be better off if you just let it go.

Appreciation

I went through a ton of changes after my Mom passed. I went through depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. I finally feel like I am in a pretty good spot. I have learned a lot from her passing, even if some of it has taken me 8 years. And I am appreciative of every last bit of it.

I have learned to be unapologetically me. My Mom was funny, quirky, and very outspoken. She did not seem to care what others thought of her. Her spirit taught me that I should not dim my light just to appease others. I am quite goofy but used to worry how others viewed me. Not anymore. I am here to live my life. I am here to be me. Like it? Great! Don’t? Well, it was good knowing ya!

I have learned to express love every chance I get. My Mom was constantly leaving me notes and little cards to tell me how much she loved me. She told me every day that she loved me and that she was proud of me. She also expressed love to others as often as possible. She gave away love so freely and I wish to be more like her. Also, losing her much earlier in life than normal caused me to realize that life is short, whether you live to be 51 or 101. You truly never know when someone you love will be taken away from you. And you never know when you will be taken away from them. So, make sure to show the people that you love exactly how much you love them and why you appreciate them! I have learned to not take people or things for granted. I have learned to really appreciate EVERYTHING in my life. I am grateful for the blessings that I do have, not bitter about what I do not have. I am extremely grateful for my Dad and the rest of my family and all that they do for me. I am abundantly thankful for the strong support system and friend group that I have. The job I have, the vehicle, the roof over my head, the food I eat – I appreciate it all. I have even tried to catch myself when I start to complain about something and spin it into a more positive view of the situation. Except for mosquitoes. I will probably never be grateful for them and will continue to complain. Those things can get the heck out of here! Here is a link to some ways to train yourself to have more gratitude.

If you have lost a parent, know that you are not alone. Whether it happens at a young age or old, it still leaves a hole in our hearts. Know that the pain never truly goes away, you just learn to cope with it more effectively. I know you are angry. I know you feel guilty. I know you are sad. But is it healthy to feel this way? Would your loved one want you to beat yourself up like this? Reach out to others if you need to. Take the steps that you can and need in order to become more aware of your emotions. Learn to be more mindful and more grateful. Love with all your heart. Be YOU. And keep on keeping on.

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