Losing a parent is one of the most difficult experiences in life. I know this because I lost my mother this past year in 2022, and my father 14 years ago, these were among the hardest things I’ve ever had to face. But I also learned some valuable lessons along the way, and I want to share them with you.
One of the things I learned is to take care of some practical matters before your parent dies. This may sound cold or insensitive, but it can actually save you a lot of stress and hassle later on. For example, after my father passed my mother created a life estate for her house, which meant that she could live there until she died, and then it would automatically pass to my brother and I without going through probate. Probate is the legal process of settling an estate after someone dies, and it can be costly, time-consuming, and complicated. By planning ahead, you can ensure that your parent’s wishes are respected and that their assets are distributed according to their preferences.
Another thing I learned is to understand the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These are not linear or fixed stages, but rather a framework that helps you recognize what you are feeling and how to move forward. You may go through some stages more than once or skip some altogether. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but knowing what to expect can help you cope better. For me, the hardest stage was anger. I was angry at God for the Alzheimer’s that led to my father’s death, at the medical world for not creating a cure for it by now, at the world for being unfair. But I realized that anger was just a way of masking my pain, and that I had to let it go in order to heal.
A third thing I learned is to take the pressure off yourself. You don’t have to be strong or brave all the time. You don’t have to pretend that everything is fine or that you are over it. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s timeline or expectations, and you have the right to feel whatever you feel, and to express it in whatever way works for you. Remember that others take their cue from you, so if you need support or space, just ask for it.
Finally, I learned that losing a parent can have long-term effects on your emotional and mental health. Studies have shown that the loss of a parent can increase the risks for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself and seek professional help if you need it. There is no shame in asking for help when you are going through something so hard.
Losing a parent is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable. By taking care of some practical matters before your parent dies, understanding the five stages of grief, taking the pressure off yourself, and seeking help when needed, you can make the process more manageable and find a way to heal.