Elder Care

Finding Relief After a Death?

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I have talked with countless people who have felt a relief when their loved one died. Relief their loved one was no longer in pain, relief that they didn’t have to visit that nursing home anymore and all it entailed, relief that their loved one is “in a better place.”

However, the partner to that relief is often guilt. Am I a bad person? I didn’t want my parent to die. Most people don’t have the strength to admit their relief fearing people’s judgment will only add to their guilt. I recently happened upon a brutally honest article on this topic titled, After the Death of a Parent, Some Bloom. I have somewhat conflicting feelings about the article, but ultimately decided that I shouldn’t avoid the topic just because it’s a little uncomfortable to talk about.

There’s not a lot of resources out there for people who have lost a parent, after all if you buried your parents then the life cycle went as planned; you buried them, they didn’t bury you, so what is there to be so upset about? A lot!

Jeanne Safer is author of the book, “Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult’s Life—for the Better.” I’ve adapted her processes for transformation after the death of the parent, many of these can be applied to any type of loss:

1. Make a conscience decision to acknowledge the death and learn something from it.

2. Allow yourself private time every day to reflect on their life and your relationship. Look at family photos or possessions and remember the feelings you had around them.

3. Construct a narrative of your parent’s history as objectively as possible.

4. Create an inventory of your parent’s character, and decide to what keep.

5. Reflect on both the positive and negative impact your parent had on your life.

6. Remind yourself that you don’t have to follow your parent’s ideas of how you should look, feel or act ever again; you can question everything now without offending them.

7. Acknowledge your guilt and let it go.

8. Seek new experiences and relationships.

Not all 8 of these are appropriate for everyone in every situation. It’s just a suggestion list, if it helps you get rid of some of your guilt then I’m all for it. Safer says, “Some children get married, some get divorced, some change jobs or become religious or atheists. They feel emotionally liberated when they no longer are dominated by someone else’s values or have to be emotional caretakers….the list goes on and on.” However the CNN article makes the point several times that the child is only freed after grieving the loss of the parent. No matter how you process it, grieving a loss is a lot of work, both physically and emotionally.
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