When we are children our parents care for us. Eventually many people find themselves in a position of caring for ailing parents and eventually losing them. Several individuals have shared their thoughts and feelings following such an experience.
It is a bittersweet thing to find to care for an ailing parent after an entire lifetime of being cared for by them. “It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Seeing my mom lose the love of her life was (also) very hard.”
An individual may find themselves feeling like they are a child again, yet faced with some very complicated tasks. Others find that they feel like an adult for the first time. One wrote that, years later, “I still find myself a grieving my father in a way that I never expected. It comes at me unexpectedly sometimes inconveniently and must always be addressed even if I don’t want to. Another thing that I have realized since my father passed is that I never felt old until he died. Now it seems as though my own mortality weighs on me in a way it never did before.”
An older teen shared what it was like to lose her father, as well as her concern for her mother and younger siblings. She said that the hardest part was, “…watching your other parent hurt and not being able to help them. Also not being able to explain to younger siblings who don’t understand that they aren’t coming back. People also end up stop asking how you’re doing about two months after and then you have to deal with the feelings by yourself because you don’t want your feelings to be a burden and make someone else sad.”
Some also felt that they were not given the opportunity to grieve. This could be because of complicated family dynamics, or because they had to be strong for others. Sometimes the logistics and planning necessary was so overwhelming that it kept them from being able to stop and feel any emotions or process their thoughts.
More than one person shared that they were overwhelmed by the helplessness, frustration, sadness, and even anger they felt at watching their parents struggle with illness. They questioned choices made by doctors and caregivers. Following the death of their parent many struggled with guilt and wondered if more could have been done.
Facing the reality of the loss and even future holidays can also be hard. As one person wrote, “The hardest for me has been that I won’t ever hear my dad’s voice, knowing I won’t buy another Father’s Day, birthday or Christmas gift.”
Death is difficult to face whether it occurs suddenly or after a prolonged period of illness. When it is sudden many experience feelings of regret or unfinished business and wish they had more time to do or say certain things. Yet even when we have time to say goodbye to someone and they have time to put their affairs in order it still feels like a surprise when we finally lose them. One person explained it as, “Denial on my part, I suppose.”
There may be a sense of relief because a parent is no longer suffering, even in the midst of grief, as heartrendingly described by one person, “Losing my mom was like taking a bullet through my soul. But still not as hard as watching her suffer. I talk to her all the time.”
Some stated that they lost their sense of grounded-ness and connection following such an intense loss. When the parental relationship was less than ideal, however, there may be complicated emotions over what never was. As one wrote, “My mother was a wonderful person, and my best friend, and I miss her. I’ve seen some people suffer in a different way than me, though, when the parent was abusive or difficult. These adult kids never get what they were looking for all their lives from that parent, and then one day they have to come to terms with the fact that they never will.”
One person shared that they felt both gratitude and grief, even after much time had passed. “There is gratefulness for the life he lived and the amazing husband, father, and grandfather he was. And there is sorrow because my children… didn’t get nearly enough time to know this incredible man. There is fear that they won’t remember him or the happier moments… So now, we adjust. We pick up the pieces and look at them and see what the new picture looks like when they all get glued together.”
Another wrote that she had a delayed reaction to her father’s death but that she still find comfort in memories and in unexpected events that bring him to mind seem to be a sign. She said, “We miss him every day and see him everywhere. He let’s us know when he is around… and things I have never remembered I remember now at just the right moment.”
Just as each person’s relationship with their parents is unique, so are our experiences with grief. In closing, the words of this beautiful and heartfelt poem seemed a fitting tribute to the love between a parent and child. They were written by Beverly Bollman following the passing of her mother. It is called, “When Jesus Took Our Mother Home.”
Our mothers love was strong and fierce.
She loved her children with all her heart.
She fought to stay with us
But Jesus had other plans.
She fought her battle hard
She didn’t want to leave us.
As she made her journey
The veil between heaven and earth lifted
Jesus was making a place for her
As her time was drawing near.
We held her hand and kissed her head
Sending our love with her on her journey.
As peace and comfort rested upon her
Her journey was complete
What a joyous time in heaven
When Jesus took our mother Home
Jennifer Roberts Bittner
Certified Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist
Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234