Chapter 2: Your parent
Your parent’s role
We called Mom for everything. Even my kids called their grandma for advice. She kinda held our whole family together despite our differences. It’s sad how things have changed since her death. I don’t feel as close to my brothers anymore. I guess that happens.
There are times when I still think “I wish I could ask dad about this,” but I’ve also learned to do things more independently.
Our parents can influence our lives in ways we are acutely aware of, and sometimes in ways that aren’t obvious until after their death. Below are some ways your parent’s life and death may impact you.
Click on each one to read more.
Each parent has their own personality and unique roles within your family. When they die, you lose not only their physical presence, but also the roles they played. These are called secondary losses.
They may have been the peacemaker, entertainer, cook, or chauffeur. Perhaps they told corny jokes; cheered loudly at sports games (or swore at the goaltender); or maybe they were a quiet listener who always brought calm to a situation.
To understand your loss, it can be helpful to think about the roles that your parent played for you, within your family, and in the larger world. You might ask, “Who was this person to me?” This can help you to:
- Recognize that you are experiencing many layers of losses.
- Find ways to adapt to your changed situation.
Understanding your parent’s impact on your life may come over time, or it may arrive like a sudden jolt. You may feel overwhelmed by what these losses mean to you. It might mean you have lost a babysitter for your kids; a confidante for your struggles; a source of income when times are tight; or a trusted advisor for life’s challenges. This can create stress, anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, and even a sense of abandonment.
The death of your parent may mean that you take on new family responsibilities that you may or may not be prepared for or want. These may include caring for their remaining spouse or partner; caring for a much younger sibling or a dependent who is living with a disability; assuming full responsibility for a business; taking on pets; or dealing with debts. This can be very overwhelming, and you may be feeling more impatient and physically exhausted than usual.
What may help
- Recognizing and acknowledging the impact of this loss is an important part of your grief.
- Remember that while some people seem more able to naturally adapt to new roles and tasks, it may take more time for others.
- It’s important to know that there’s no right or wrong response to these changes.
- Keep in mind that grief takes not only your time, but also your energy. Tasks that may have once seemed ordinary or simple may now seem especially tedious and difficult. It can be challenging to find ways to fit them into your day-to-day life.
- Be patient and kind with yourself, and accommodate how you are feeling.