The unexpected loss of a parent or a parent that experiences the unexpected loss of a child is a tragedy that can be very difficult to cope with. There is not a one-size fits all approach to dealing with an unexpected loss. However, there are some coping skills you can try to help you get through this difficult time.
1. Take As Long As You Need
When a parent loses a child, people are less apt to encourage you to move on from your grief than when a child loses a parent. For many people losing a parent is emotionally devastating, especially now that more parents are aging in place. About 51% of seniors that receive care receive care in their homes, 29% of seniors live with a family caregiver, and only 4% of seniors receive care in nursing homes or assisted living communities.
Your grief and how long it takes you to cope with that grief is entirely up to you. Acknowledge that well-meaning friends and family members may not understand your grief’s complexities because it is a very personal process. Don’t put time limits on how long you can grieve your parent or anyone else.
2. Return to a Routine As Soon as You Can
To help with your mental well-being, get back to a routine as soon as possible. It may not be easy to trudge through a routine, but it is important, especially if you are a parent with children. Children need a routine to feel safe. They likely feel the pains of loss as much as you do. A routine can help you cope with loss.
3. Limit Your Exposure To Negative News
One of the ways to help you cope with loss is to avoid negative news. For example, a recent story on Dateline reported on the 23 children that were killed in Pennsylvania during custody disputes. This information upsets any parent, especially one who is trying to cope with their own loss. Avoid upsetting news. Stay focused on your own emotions and coping with them. Watch programming that is light and fun to watch. It can be a good distraction for a little while.
4. Avoid Self-Medicating
Sudden loss is very emotionally painful. Don’t try to dull the pain by turning to alcohol or drugs. Instead, learn to recognize triggers and consider how you will cope with those triggers. Turning to drugs and alcohol is not the solution. Drugs and alcohol make it harder to cope with the loss and can worsen things. Please don’t risk it. If you notice that you are going down this path and drinking more or seeking illicit drugs, get help ASAP.
5. Talk About Your Loss
Discussing your loss and the person you lost is okay. Talking to friends and family and joining a grief group can help you heal. Talking about your loss will help you overcome some of your grief. Honoring your loved one’s memory by recalling events that were a part of your life may make you sadder at first, but over time it will make you happier to recall the part they played in your life.
After losing a loved one, it takes some time to regroup. Don’t make major life changes in the six months following an unexpected loss. Making decisions while coping with grief is never a good idea. Another thing you will need to work on is letting go of the ‘why.’ Many people faced with a sudden loss, especially a parent, will spend months focused on the ‘why’. There is usually no clear answer. About 4.6% of children between the ages of 5-11 get sick or suffer a serious injury that keeps them out of school for 11 days or more. If you’ve experienced the loss of a child, you’re familiar with the difficulties that parents with sick or injured children endure. Consider finding a support group among those who have experienced a similar loss.
If you have suffered the sudden loss of a parent or you are a parent that suffered the sudden loss of a child, there is help. Call today to learn coping skills to deal with a sudden loss.