Dealing With the Death of a Parent in Midlife
Whether you are 14 or 54, losing a parent is one of the most difficult experiences that life brings. The natural order of things calls for children to outlive parents, but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear when a beloved parent dies.
Terminal Illness in a ParentWhile some deaths are sudden, most are not. Typically, known illness precedes death, so families have at least some time to prepare themselves for an impending loss. At the diagnosis of a terminal illness of a parent, many middle aged people are in the midst of raising their own children and striving to advance their careers, so extra time is usually hard to find. Nonetheless, many people in midlife are faced with the challenge of maintaining all of their current commitments whilst adding the role of caretaker for a dying parent to their list of responsibilities.
While most people are eager to offer aid to their parents, here are limitations to how much hands-on care many are able to provide. Arranging for assistance from other family members can be helpful, as can hiring professional caregivers to handle some of the necessary tasks. At the very least, middle aged people might consider utilising respite care so that they can get some much needed time away from the physical and emotional demands associated with caring for dying parents.
The Loss of a Support SystemNo matter how old we are, many of us consider our parents to be our best and most reliable sources of ongoing advice and support. The loss of a parent, especially if it leaves us parentless, can have even the strongest people feeling a bit like they are walking a tightrope without a safety net. When we have parents, we may have the sense that no matter what life brings, we will be able to handle it; without them, the future can seem less safe and certain. Fortunately, most people have a circle of close friends and family members who can offer the support that is needed, both soon after experiencing the loss of a parent, and beyond.
Grieving Takes TimeThere is sometimes a push for grieving people to quickly get back to their regular routines, but the grief process can be lengthy and complicated. The loss of a parent can cause havoc in the life of a middle aged child – suddenly, they may be overwhelmed with emotion, yet leading lives filled with responsibilities that require them to remain capable and reliable. While some obligations must be tended to, those in midlife who are able to scale back and give themselves some time to heal should do so.
For those who feel unable to cope with their emotions after the death of a parent, bereavement counselling may offer the tools needed to manage grief. Having a place to reveal and discuss the wide range of emotions often experienced after the death of a loved one can help those in midlife cope. Anger, sadness, guilt and fear are common, and these feelings must be dealt with for healing to occur.
Another option for help in healing can be grief support groups. Both in person meetings and online support groups are readily available, providing the grief stricken with outlets for their despair. Commiserating with others who are or have experienced the same loss can help the bereaved to feel less alone and provide assurance that their emotional responses are perfectly normal. In the end, it matters far less which path middle aged people take to find healing after the death of a parent – it is far more important that they work to find the help that they need so that their pain is replaced by happy memories of their parents.