There is no easy way to deal with the loss of a parent. They’ve literally know us our whole lives and for most of us, they provided unconditional love. Unfortunately, it’s part of the life cycle most of us have to deal with. I know when my dad died, it was a huge loss.
Recently, a colleague of mine lost her father and asked me if I had any advice for dealing with her loss. Since she found what I wrote helpful, I thought I’d share it here in hopes it might be helpful to you.
1. Make time to do things that make you happy. I believe nurturing yourself is part of the healing.
2. Consider short term therapy if you find yourself getting depressed or really sad, distracted, or “alone.” It’s a long term loss but a short term trauma.
3. Make time to talk with family and loved ones who are also feeling the loss, but not necessarily to talk about the loss. ie share and receive some love with those close to you without expecting to focus on the loss you share.
4. Journal your feelings. Just have an empty journal and fill it with what comes into your head. You may put it aside and not look at it for years, but it’s a way to remember how you felt when you’re ready to revisit.
5. Consider a tribute to your parent. Some people donate with their name on a memorial plaque. I made a donation in my Temple for something that would have been important to my dad; a friend of mine donated money for a fund to bring an annual speaker to a medical society for his father, there are lots of examples. Not all cost a ton of money. Put a plaque on a park bench where he or she loved to walk.
If you do this, think what would make your parent feel proud, not only remembered.
6. I wrote a song about my dad that helped me put my thoughts about him into some concrete form. Here it is below. Maybe you want to write a poem, etc.
7. Invite your parent to visit you. There were nights I swear I talked with my dad in my dreams. The visits seemed so real and were so pleasant… until I realized, Wait a minute, can’t be!
I think the most important thing is to make time to experience the loss.
If you are spiritual or religious, say prayers or just take time to feel for a few minutes each day. Then pick a time in the future, maybe 6-12 months from now, and then stop the daily ritual, but find specific times each year to remember.
I think metaphorically, just like a heart attack, you have to rest your “emotional heart” until your emotional strength is recovered. Then slowly and steadily start “exercising” again and get back in the human race.
And always, just keep remembering the love you shared.