He asked my mother to go to the counter by herself to order breakfast for him. But by the time she returned to their table, my father had been swept away into another world, taken by a massive heart attack. One minute he was here and the next, he was gone. My world and my soul changed that day.
The waters might be calm when, out of nowhere, grief abruptly crashes into me and swallows me whole. And there it is, momentarily, with its transitory but all-encompassing melodrama, brought on by the simplest of things – a pair of his thick wool socks tucked away in the corner of my closet, a bottle of Old Spice on a drugstore shelf, an email that has rested in my inbox for ten years, a bowl of pistachio nuts. And I miss him all over again, totally unable to wrap my heart around his absence, around the reality that I will never see him again in this lifetime.
Losing A Mother Or Father Hurts In A Different Way
Whether your mother and father were absent, abusive, perfect, or somewhere in between, their death leaves us with profound grief. Regardless of our relationship to them, when a parent dies, a part of us dies with them. Whether we like it or not, our parents influence our lives from the moment we are born. They are the first people whose opinions of us matter. When we’re little, we view them as deities. The way our parents treat us and guide us – the words and tones they use; their praise, blame, and discipline; the way they give us attention or neglect us – are life’s first lessons. Our parents shape our personality, our sense of security in the world, and our level of confidence as we walk through life. So, it’s no wonder that when our mother or father passes away, their death impacts us in a very unique way.
The Stages Of Grief
Many people who experience grief go through various emotional responses. These stages can include shock, deep sorrow, numbness, rage, guilt, and acceptance.
The final stage, acceptance, does not mean that you necessarily like or even feel true peace with the loss of your parent. Acceptance means that you are able to acknowledge that your mother or father’s physical form has died, you now have a new life in which they are no longer present the same way they were, and you must go on living.
If you are feeling stuck in deep sorrow and unable to accept the death of a parent for more than a year after they have died, seeking counseling may help. (1)
When my father died, I initially thought I could never move forward, but eventually, I did. Moving forward does not mean moving on, leaving them behind, or forgetting them. Moving forward means continuing to live and find happiness in your own precious life. When I reached the stage of acceptance, I was able to focus on all that my father taught me, all the ways I grew and evolved because of him, and on joyous memories that still make me laugh.
The Lesson We Can Learn
Experiencing a mother or father’s death is extremely difficult. As with all the challenges we face in life, however, losing our parents can teach us a powerful, life-changing lesson:
To truly appreciate each moment we have and those we love – to hear their voice, inhale their scent, embrace them, and enjoy them … because your spouse, your child, your pet, your friend, your acquaintance, your mother, your father, and this one moment in your miraculous life, are temporary.