Coping with Grief after the death of your parents

Unfortunately, many of our friends are coping with grief after the death of one or more of their parents.  It was a while ago for us, our father died 14 years ago and Mummy died more than 20 years ago, both to the flipping big ‘C’.  Witnessing our friends pain and sorrow is so sad to see. I wish I could fast forward them down the grieving roller coaster but, I know, it’s an individual ride they all have to take. I pray that there aren’t too many loop the loops for them.

One of the best pieces of advice I was given when Mummy died aged 51 after her 5-year battle with breast cancer was Forgive, Forgive, Forgive! And boy did I need to that!

Everyone deals with the death of a loved one differently. For me, I threw myself into work, partying in London, drinking far too much, trying to obliterate the pain that I was feeling. When Mummy died it was as if I had lost a leg, my best friend, the only person who really got me, was gone. Who was I going to ring when things weren’t going well? She was the only person who I felt didn’t judge me, who loved me unconditionally no matter what ridiculous situation I found myself in.

The Guilt

And then the guilt hit, fortunately for me Katharine was working near home and was able to care for her during the last few days before she died. My job when Mummy was dying was to provide some normality to life, to carry on working, to be her focus outside her illness. I rang her every morning on my walk to work to natter about the day ahead or the night that had passed. How I wish I had gone home too and been there to care for her. I’ve had to forgive myself for that and I now know that carrying on as ‘normal’ was so important to Mummy in her final days.

The new partner

You have to forgive others too; people behave so differently in times of grief. I was devastated that my relationship with our father changed so drastically after Mummy died. Daddy quickly found a new partner with three daughters and seemed to swiftly move on. I don’t know if we reminded him too much of Mummy, if grieving with us was just too painful. ‘Moving on’ quickly seems to be quite common when a partner dies. I don’t blame him for wanting to find happiness. I did need help forgiving him though as I felt deserted when I really needed his support. A huge thank you to Cruse Bereavement Support who helped me to process all of this.

Clearing the Family Home

And then you get to the stage of clearing the family home and the dreaded who is going to get what. If I can give one recommendation, it would be to have a discussion with your parents about ‘stuff’ before they die. It helps so much if there is a list of what is going to who. The last thing a family needs when grieving is an argument about possessions.

Fortunately for us we weren’t too bothered as to which one of us kept what, we took it in turns to pick the items we felt most attached to. Our parents invested in travel rather than things which again I am now so grateful for. It was the demand from a relative for our grandfather’s medals on the way to Daddy’s funeral that flummoxed us. Again forgive, forgive, forgive. It didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. It was the timing that perhaps could have been a little more considerate!

Time is a healer

Time is an amazing healer. For me, true healing and acceptance started when Daddy died too. That must sound dreadful, but I could finally grieve for the family that I had lost. I no longer felt anger and resentment towards my father. As time has passed more and more of the possessions from our parents’ home have been sold.  The emotional tie and need to physically cling on to them has lessened over the years.

Acceptance and moving on

I look back now with fond memories of happy times. There is no point hanging on to anger, doing that will just make you sick. Forgiveness can be really hard to do but it is so worth working on if you can.

My worst fear had always been “how would I cope if both of my parents died?”.  Now I know, and I am coping, and life has moved on. Fortunately, I am very blessed to have an amazing family and fantastic sister.

Losing your parents is the natural cycle of life. It’s hard to cope with especially if their death is sudden or you were young when it happened. I can’t imagine the grieving process of losing children or siblings. My heart goes out to all who have dealt with or are still dealing with such tragedies.

I am extremely lucky to have had a good (but too short) relationship with my parents and the support of my sister. I wish all those on their grieving journey love and support and hope that some of my words may help in a little way.

 

Here is a brilliant podcast on grief that was recently presented by Fearne Cotton on her podcast Happy Place. During this podcast she interviews Richard.E.Grant who shares his grieving process after his wife Joan died in 2021. Before she dies she told Richard and his daughter to find a ‘pocketful of happiness’ every day.

Here is the link to the podcast:  A Pocketful of Happiness

He has also published his memoirs in a book also called ‘A Pocketful of Happiness’ which is out now.