Regardless of age, coping with the loss of a parent is incredibly difficult. What do you do when the person you have known since the day you were born is suddenly no longer in your life? Here are a few ways for people of various ages to deal with the loss of a parent:
When grieving the loss of a parent, remember it is typical to experience intense emotions like anger, sadness, loneliness, and helplessness, among others. Take the time to adapt to this change rather than trying to control it. Through acceptance, you can allow yourself to fully experience emotions without judging whether you should be feeling the way you do. Try to continue with your daily routine as much as possible, taking each day one at a time.
Take Care of Yourself
During emotional crises, many people forget to take care of their basic needs. Doing so only accentuates negative emotions. Along with keeping your routine as normal as possible, do not forget to take care of yourself.
- Get plenty of sleep each night.
- Exercise to relieve tension, get perspective, and help improve your mood. (Exercise releases feel-good natural chemicals like endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine.)
- Drink plenty of water and eat healthy, whole foods. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase the serotonin levels in the brain, which improves mood.
- Do the activities you enjoy. Surround yourself with nurturing, supportive people. Human interaction increases the dopamine levels in the brain, which can help one feel significant and content.
- Unless a professional has prescribed them, avoid consuming drugs to mask the pain of your loss. Using alcohol or drugs is an unhealthy and ineffective coping strategy that can lead to dependence, abuse, and addiction. Turn to your support system instead of depending on drugs.
- Call a friend, talk to your pastor or spiritual leader, or consider enlisting the help of a therapist or support group. Such people can provide support, perspective, and ideas to help you find the inner strength you need to get through this hard time.
Children and Teens Dealing with Loss
Children and teens grieve differently than adults. They may not show outward signs of their sadness, and may instead express their grief by drawing pictures of the parent that died, talking about that person, writing poetry, or creating other forms of art. Here are a few tips for helping grieving children and teens.
Honestly answer their questions. Young people may think the death of their parent was their fault. They may worry about who will care for them. Young children may wonder if the dead parent will come back soon. Spend time with grieving children and teens to learn about their experience. Honestly answer all of their questions.
- Young people need to have their feelings affirmed, even if those feelings seem exaggerated to adults. They need to be listened to without judgment and told that what they are feeling is okay and normal.
- Consider the grieving process an educational experience. Children and teens may ask repetitive questions about the death, or they may want to listen in on conversations about the situation. This can help them process the event and make sense of it, which can eventually help them accept and move past their grief.
About the Author:
Flora Richards-Gustafson is a freelance writer who frequently writes for Valley of Life. Help your family grieve the loss of a parent.