How to Be a Parent When Your Parent Dies

In growing up, the herd guides you through the milestones. When you are young, everyone you know graduates from college, gets their first job, gets married, and has children. As you get closer to middle age, the milestones become less festive. Everyone you know looses their girdle, sheds their hair, sheds T. And then comes the most disorienting loss: their parents.

For this milestone, I was a reluctant forward scout far ahead of the herd. My mom died seven years ago when I was 32 years old. I wrote about the special feeling of an orphaned adult. Here I will share some thoughts on how to be a good parent when you are losing yours.

Be straight

Now is not the time for euphemism. If your father is being treated in a hospice, he does not “feel a little sick.” When your mom speaks smoothly, she doesn’t “sleep.” Your father is dying. Your mom is dead. It’s cruel, but it’s true. Your kids need the opportunity to say goodbye, just like you. If you shield reality, the seriousness of the situation will elude them.

Children will recognize the reality that you define, and you will only blur it if you speak in awkward metaphors. A side effect of the euphemism is anxiety. Children may be afraid to go to bed or catch a cold. Eventually, PawPaw felt a little sick and now he lives underground in a large flower garden.

Show how you feel

Cry. Moan. Mop. Look into space. Your mom will never kiss you on the cheek again. Your father’s quest for the cheapest gasoline has stopped. He will never share news on this matter.

Your feelings will be confused and conflicting. Don’t try to figure things out right away. And don’t hide the mess from your kids. If they are young, they will not understand what happened to their grandmother. Don’t exacerbate that confusion by wearing a bold face that begs the question: Why isn’t Mom sad about Grandma’s death? Mourning openly shows children another way of expressing love. It is more than hugs and smiles, it is also crying and tears.

But. Your kids don’t need to see you drunk or punching drywall. There is a difference between vulnerability and fear. Go ahead and climb into despair. Eat the whole Ben & Jerry’s store, vomit whiskey and Taco Bell, get 20 hours of sleep – whatever. Just make sure your kids are enjoying a sleepover with their cousins ​​while you’re not tied down.

Tell stories

There are studies that show that your boring stories of how things really happened stay with your children. When you tell family stories, you feel connected to the past. Moreover, it signals that the topic of your dead mother is not taboo – that you want to keep thinking about her.

I didn’t handle it very well at first. I kept many memories of my mother to myself, and my daughter’s sympathy prompted her to shy away from questions. Eventually, it became easy for me to think about Mom without feeling sad, and stories began to surface.

This inspired my daughter to tell her stories. Remember that you and your children are mourning two versions of the same person. They’ll want to talk about times when Grandma slipped them extra cookies at the dinner table, just as you’ll want to remember how Mom made boogie-woogie boots at your 12th birthday party.

Follow a daily routine

You will want to sit still in a dark house. But soccer practice will be tempting, and the Girl Scout meeting is about to begin. The pantry will be empty and Target will be ready to greet you. Life has stopped. Your life is on hold. But in general, life goes on. As much as possible, do what you would have done anyway if your father’s ashes were not stored in the urn on your dresser.

My mother died in the early morning of October 29th. I was with her in the hospital room. Two days later, I was with my wife and daughter as we walked around the neighborhood tricks or treats. My daughter was only three years old and wanted to dress up and see her friends’ costumes. She was sad, but she was just asobsessed with candy as Garfield .

I don’t remember much about this evening. I was still in shock. But it was nice to take a break from tears. It was nice to watch my child squeal with delight over the creepy decorations. It was nice to eat my feelings in the form of funny sneakers.

Look outside

Most likely, you will not be able to navigate this alone. You can be capable, ambitious, tenacious, and yet completely detached. Look for helpers, as Mr. Rogers said.

There are dozens of children’s books about death . I bought Freddy’s Leaf Falls when my mom was dying, but that was beyond my daughter’s understanding. He stays on a bookshelf across the room, waiting for the next unfortunate grandparents to die.

A support group or a good therapist can work miracles in guiding your family through a hurricane of emotions that each of you is experiencing. Your child may not have enough words to express their grief. But maybe he can draw pictures or create videos on your phone. The professional will have the flair to explore these alternative communication methods.

Say what you believe in

Nobody knows what happens after the last heartbeat. While current events strongly suggest that humankind has experienced a sudden mass extinction and that hell is real, the afterlife remains unconfirmed. If you’re not in love with angels or ghosts, don’t pretend otherwise. Older children will see this kind of hypocrisy and judge you harshly. We can say that you do not know what happens after our death.

You can also create your own mythology. I think of it this way: a slight flutter of air just above my right shoulder, as if the wings of a butterfly were almost touching my ear. I turn my head and feel the warmth, as if the sun is penetrating my body to my toes under the influence of the Earth’s gravity. This is what it feels like when I feel my mom with me. Is this a trick of my creative nature? Is it the touch of an astral being? I don’t need an answer. In any case, I know that some part of it is still here.


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