21 Dec Surprised By Grief
Grief is messy. It’s unpredictable, it’s confusing, it’s painful, and it can be surprising. Many adults who are nearing middle-age are experiencing grief: grief over parents that comes long before death. It is not the loss of their parent, it is the loss of the parent that they knew.
I lost my father five years before his death due to a brain aneurysm. He lived, but he could no longer talk or eat or walk without assistance and didn’t have all of his memory intact. He was still my father, but not the father I knew. I recently had a client whose father had to be put in the hospital due to Alzheimer’s disease. She was surprised by the complex feelings that she was experiencing. Once we were able to label it as grief, it helped her understand what was occurring.
Many people nearing middle-age are experiencing or will be experiencing similar situations. As helpers, we can help them walk through the process.
The first thing we can do is legitimize their grief.
Many people feel guilty for grieving because their parent isn’t dead. In my case, I felt that I should be thankful that my father had survived the aneurysm. But, I missed the father that I knew. This man looked like my father, but we couldn’t interact in the same way. My father was strong and confident and capable. He laughed and talked. This father required different things from me as a daughter and gave different things back to me. I loved him, but but everything about him and our relationship was changed.
We need to help them grieve the change in relationship with their other parent.
Loss of functioning of one parent includes some loss of focus and a change in relationship with the other parent. When a life time spouse becomes ill or incapacitated, the other spouse’s whole life changes. The focus shifts away from the children and grandchildren to medication, nursing care, doctor’s appointments, and insurance forms.
By Janis Sharpe