How to Cope with the Loss of a Parent: 9 Tips
The grieving process can be overwhelming and all-consuming. According to studies, losing a parent can put us at high risk for physical and mental complications. One of the most important things to remember is you shouldn’t expect to feel any particular way or that your healing process will follow a specific timeline.
“Helpful tactics to cope with the loss of a parent include creating a memorial that celebrates their life; reserving some time and space to allow raw emotions to show up; accepting that how our grief shows up is exactly what we need; directing our behavior toward happiness because our parents would want that for us; directing our attention towards positive memories.”
The following tips can help you cope as you experience the devastating loss of a parent.
1. Embrace your grief and emotions fully
Allow yourself to experience all of your emotions as they come up. Don’t try to suppress or ignore them. Instead, acknowledge what you’re feeling and let it out in whatever way feels right for you.
2. Understand that grief isn’t linear
Everyone’s grieving process is different, and there is no “right” way to do it. As a result, you may find yourself going back and forth between different stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — multiple times before finding peace with parental loss.
3. Don’t give yourself a timeline for your grief
While you might be asking yourself how long does grief last, it’s important to know there’s no expiration date or set-in-stone timeline. Research shows that intense types of grief over the loss of a parent can last for 1 – 5 years, so don’t try to rush the process. Grief isn’t something a person can force.
4. Make self-care a priority
When learning how to deal with parental death, make sure you take care of yourself during this time. Self-care can be simple, small tasks that encourage you to prioritize your health — emotional and physical. Practice self-care acts by:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating healthy meals regularly
- Exercising when possible (even if that just means taking short walks)
- Spending time outdoors if weather permits
- Doing activities that bring joy into your life (listening to music/watching movies)
- Connecting with friends and family members who understand what you’re going through
5. Do special things to honor and remember them
Find ways to honor the person’s memory. For example, you can make photo albums or scrapbooks with pictures from happy moments. Share or write letters expressing unconditional love & gratitude. Anything that helps keep their spirit alive can let you process and then release some of the pain and emotion you feel.
6. Talk about them
Talking about your intense feelings and the parent you lost helps you process your emotions better. Bottling things up inside can lead to depression over time. If talking directly about them makes you uncomfortable or feels too painful, you can simply talk about how their absence has impacted your life instead. Either in therapy, support group, or among close friends and family members, talking to people who understand what you’re going through at this moment can be tremendously beneficial.
7. Sit in your feelings
Acceptance doesn’t mean forgetting. It’s about learning how to deal with the death of a parent and not having their physical presence around any longer. Give yourself space and freedom from guilt, shame, or judgment while grieving the loss of a parent. Your feelings are natural and valid, even if they’re painful.
8. Have a support system on hand
Having a support group who genuinely understands what you’re going through helps immensely during tough times like these when you need support more than ever. These people could be close friends, family members, or colleagues at work/school/college — whoever understands your pain best should be part of your support system throughout your journey ahead.
9. Start grief therapy
Sometimes it can be challenging for people who haven’t experienced a similar loss to understand how excruciating grief can be. Unfortunately, this might make you too uncomfortable to reach out for help when you need it most.
If you don’t have a strong support system, online grief counseling can help, whether through group sessions or private. Treatment can give you the tools you need to move through complicated grief.