Dealing With The Loss of a Parent

A letter to myself

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Dear Me, 2012,

It’s impossible to put into words how you are feeling right now, after mom passed away so tragically and so prematurely.  Six years later, I have the benefit of hindsight, clarity, logic, but right now what’s happening is so incomprehensibly sad.   You will feel guilt, you will feel empty and you will feel like these dark and murky days will never end. At the moment, and for some time yet, you will feel utterly devastated, as if your stomach has been torn out and you as if you will never recover.

Please, please know that these days will pass, and whilst you and your life will never be the same, you will recover.  You will learn to live without her, sometimes it will feel ‘OK’, other times it will be heartbreaking. Everyone grieves differently, it’s such a deeply personal thing, and you won’t know how to handle this in the beginning.  Losing a parent is a normal part of life, but that does not make it easy, and they don’t write manuals on it or teach you at school how to deal with it (why don’t they do that?).

People will always tell you how strong they think you are, how proud your mom would be.  At first, you will hate those words, “your mom would be proud of you”. You will wish she was here to actually *be* proud, but really and truly, she would be proud of you.  She’d be proud of your strength, your love for your family, and for starting your own photography business (you *will* do this, and she knew you wanted to). If nothing else, losing mom will prove to you how resilient you can be.

Be kind to Dad. To be alone after 44 years with the same person is something unimaginable. So be kind. Be patient. Just be there.  

Don’t be afraid to cry.  If crying helps, then cry.  Don’t hold it in or disguise it.  Cry as much as you need to. Though you might need to invest in some waterproof mascara and some eye cream, panda eyes aren’t a good look!

Counselling won’t work for you, you’re just not that sort of person.  People will repeatedly recommend bereavement counselling to you, and it definitely works for some.  But not for you and that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it because you aren’t ready to talk. You’ll find other ways to express your emotions, distress and anger.

Be kind to Dad.  That sounds obvious, but in the darkness, it’s so hard.  You’ll be angry, he will be angry, he will be sad and he too won’t know how to handle this.  Try to remember that he has lost his soulmate, his reason for living, what he refers to as his “moral compass”.  To be alone after 44 years with the same person is something unimaginable. So be kind. Be patient. Just be there.  

Your sister will become your best friend.  Without Mom, and with Dad battling his own demons, the family dynamic will change.  Since you are still both single, 4 becoming 3 in such a close family is a significant adjustment and you’ll have to work together to find a way.  Six years on though, I promise you that you will have such a close bond that even your husbands will be jealous! You’ll holiday together, help each other buy houses and even talk about boys (you never did that growing up, did you?). Remember how you and mom used to text daily about nothing much except how to use the washing machine or silly in-jokes about Blackadder quotes?

You’ll find solace in unexpected places.  Rod Stewart being one of them.

In time, that will be you and Sarah. She won’t be a replacement for mom, of course, but she gets what you are going through now, and she will understand what you’ll face when you get married or when you have problems at work and you just need your mom.

You’ll find solace in unexpected places.  Rod Stewart being one of them. Not the man himself, of course, since given his age that would be odd… But his music.  Mom loved Rod Stewart, and his songs will remind you of her. In fact, mom loved all music and on your wedding day, you will dance your heart out as if she were there with you. That’s because she will be there, she will always be there.

I won’t sugar coat it, because that’s not what you need.  The next few years will be hard. Harder than anything you’ve ever experienced before.  There will be times when it’s devastating. The ‘first’ of everything will be the worst of it – the first birthday, the first anniversary.  Over the years, and I think probably throughout your life now, you’ll have moments of sadness which you’ll feel at different levels of intensity.  Of course you will, she was your momma and she is the reason you are here.

There will be times when you feel like you’ve forgotten her.  That forgotten anniversary or trying to remember her voice and finding it hard to extract it from the depths of your brain.  You will never forget her and that’s because she is a part of you, she taught you everything you know. You’ll remember her warm smile, her laughter, the way she used to tell your Dad to stop teasing you.  There will be days when you look in the mirror and see her face looking back at you. You are your mother’s daughter, after all.

In time, the grief will fade and the good memories will shine through.  You will remember her and smile.

Be patient with yourself and be kind to yourself.  ‘Grief is just love with nowhere to go’.

With love,

Me, 2018

xx

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4 Comments

  • This is such a helpful and honest letter to the writer’s former self. Life is also about learning how to deal with loss, which is also part of life.

    It’s very rare not to experience loss at some point and yet we don’t talk about it. If we could encourage each other to be more open and share our experiences we would all feel less alone.

    The writer makes an excellent point: ‘Losing a parent is a normal part of life, but that does not make it easy, and they don’t write manuals on it or teach you at school how to deal with it (why don’t they do that?).’

    Yes.. why don’t they do that? When a subject is shrouded
    in mystery and stamped with a taboo then a culture of silence forms which perpetuates an unhelpful cycle.

    I’ve written extensively about the loss of my Mother because she was my absolute best friend and we were incredibly close. I couldn’t believe how helpful and healing it was to write about losing her. Writing is a valuable form of therapy and if articles like this help others too then so much the better.

  • There’s such comfort knowing we are not alone in these feelings. Next month marks 17 years since my dad died… just a year less than the entire time I got to have him. I feel like his death was only yesterday and so the fact its been that period of time really frightens me. I miss him so much and feel so sad he himself has missed so much. I get married this year and am heartbroken not only will he be missing but my OH never got to meet him and so can’t miss him. Life is bloody cruel sometimes eh. We go on. We have to. Xx

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