Losing a parent is one of the most challenging experiences we will ever go through. It’s an emotionally devastating event, yet it’s something almost all of us will have to face at some point in life. Of course, everyone grieves differently, but there are certain steps you can take to help cope with parental loss and start healing from it.
Continue reading to learn how to deal with the loss of a parent.
The grieving process can be overwhelming and all-consuming. According to studies, losing a parent can put us at high risk for physical and mental complications. One of the most important things to remember is you shouldn’t expect to feel any particular way or that your healing process will follow a specific timeline.
“Helpful tactics to cope with the loss of a parent include creating a memorial that celebrates their life; reserving some time and space to allow raw emotions to show up; accepting that how our grief shows up is exactly what we need; directing our behavior toward happiness because our parents would want that for us; directing our attention towards positive memories.”
The following tips can help you cope as you experience the devastating loss of a parent.
1. Embrace your grief and emotions fully
Allow yourself to experience all of your emotions as they come up. Don’t try to suppress or ignore them. Instead, acknowledge what you’re feeling and let it out in whatever way feels right for you.
2. Understand that grief isn’t linear
Everyone’s grieving process is different, and there is no “right” way to do it. As a result, you may find yourself going back and forth between different stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — multiple times before finding peace with parental loss.
3. Don’t give yourself a timeline for your grief
While you might be asking yourself how long does grief last, it’s important to know there’s no expiration date or set-in-stone timeline. Research shows that intense types of grief over the loss of a parent can last for 1 – 5 years, so don’t try to rush the process. Grief isn’t something a person can force.
4. Make self-care a priority
When learning how to deal with parental death, make sure you take care of yourself during this time. Self-care can be simple, small tasks that encourage you to prioritize your health — emotional and physical. Practice self-care acts by:
Getting enough sleep
Eating healthy meals regularly
Exercising when possible (even if that just means taking short walks)
Spending time outdoors if weather permits
Doing activities that bring joy into your life (listening to music/watching movies)
Connecting with friends and family members who understand what you’re going through
5. Do special things to honor and remember them
Find ways to honor the person’s memory. For example, you can make photo albums or scrapbooks with pictures from happy moments. Share or write letters expressing unconditional love & gratitude. Anything that helps keep their spirit alive can let you process and then release some of the pain and emotion you feel.
6. Talk about them
Talking about your intense feelings and the parent you lost helps you process your emotions better. Bottling things up inside can lead to depression over time. If talking directly about them makes you uncomfortable or feels too painful, you can simply talk about how their absence has impacted your life instead. Either in therapy, support group, or among close friends and family members, talking to people who understand what you’re going through at this moment can be tremendously beneficial.
7. Sit in your feelings
Acceptance doesn’t mean forgetting. It’s about learning how to deal with the death of a parent and not having their physical presence around any longer. Give yourself space and freedom from guilt, shame, or judgment while grieving the loss of a parent. Your feelings are natural and valid, even if they’re painful.
8. Have a support system on hand
Having a support group who genuinely understands what you’re going through helps immensely during tough times like these when you need support more than ever. These people could be close friends, family members, or colleagues at work/school/college — whoever understands your pain best should be part of your support system throughout your journey ahead.
9. Start grief therapy
Sometimes it can be challenging for people who haven’t experienced a similar loss to understand how excruciating grief can be. Unfortunately, this might make you too uncomfortable to reach out for help when you need it most.
If you don’t have a strong support system, online grief counseling can help, whether through group sessions or private. Treatment can give you the tools you need to move through complicated grief.
Grief is often overwhelming and confusing, leaving you feeling helpless and alone. While it’s essential to take time to grieve in your own way, there are times when seeking professional help may be necessary.
It’s important to recognize when you need help dealing with complicated grief so you can begin healing and find closure. If your emotions become too overwhelming or start affecting other areas of your life, it may be time to take the first step and start grief therapy. A therapist can teach you grief therapy techniques to manage your intense feelings and work through them in healthy ways.
“Grief takes time, but if we notice that the grief is gravely impacting other areas of our lives, we should access professional help. If our relationships are suffering, our work feels impossible, we cannot eat, sleep, focus, or we find ourselves constantly ruminating and losing hope in our outlook, we should ask a professional to help.”
It’s normal to feel sad or overwhelmed after the death of a loved one. However, if you’re finding it hard to function and get through daily activities like work or school, it might be time to seek grief counseling or professional help.
Remember that it’s normal and natural to feel grief, sadness, and other emotions after losing a parent. Also, keep in mind there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. There are many ways to cope on your own — like by embracing your emotions or finding support from friends and family members — but sometimes you might need more to process the loss of a parent.
Talkspace offers online therapy services that provide an accessible way for those grieving the loss of a parent to get the help they need to heal. Losing a parent is never easy, but by taking care of yourself emotionally and mentally, you will eventually find peace within yourself again.
Are you struggling after losing a parent? You don’t have to go through this alone. Talkspace therapists can offer support and guidance during grief, helping you navigate life’s challenges in a healthy way. Our team of experienced professionals is here for you. A Talkspace grief counselor can help create personalized plans that will empower you on your journey toward healing from a parent’s death.
Learn how to deal with grief through Talkspace today.
Scharlach AE. Factors associated with filial grief following the death of an elderly parent. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 1991;61(2):307-313. doi:10.1037/h0079240. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2048647/. Accessed December 19, 2022.
Marks NF, Jun H, Song J. Death of parents and adult psychological and physical well-being. Journal of Family Issues. 2007;28(12):1611-1638. doi:10.1177/0192513×07302728.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2638056/. Accessed December 19, 2022.