Coping With the Grief of a Dying Parent

Tess Thompson

Coping with grief is a daunting task when you lose a dear one, but what transpires while caring for a dying parent is an emotion that probably cannot be explained to those who have never faced it themselves. The tasks of caring for your own parents can be very demanding, especially since you are yourself engulfed in sadness and sorrow over the impending death.

The approaching end of life of a parent/grandparent who brought you up and stood by you whenever the need arose can shatter even those who are able to otherwise control their emotions. You see death approaching your parent every moment of the day – while you care for him/her, while you eat, when you relax and even at work. Even when you are asleep, the thought of losing a loving parent can haunt you in your dreams.

At the same time, the ailing parent is totally dependent upon you. This requires a total reversal of roles. This reversal, however, may not be easy for the caregiver. From a situation where your parents took care of you as a child, roles shift to take care of your parents’ needs. However, responding to the needs of an ailing parent is different from caring for a child. What is required of you is to respond to the needs of your ailing parent, regardless of your own likes and dislikes.

As an "adult child", seeing death at such close quarters may also bring in thoughts of your own mortality. Family members are wary of talking about death, especially impending death. They find it difficult to talk about hope and death in the same breath. Share your feelings within the family or with friends who care. Talking about such issues and feelings can actually prepare you to meet the challenges that death brings along.

Hope is a precious emotion and one should never let go of it. However, we need to redefine it through the course of a medical crisis. It may appear to you that there is nothing to hope for now as life approaches its end. But there is a lot to hope for even at that stage. You can work towards the goal of providing company and comfort for peace and dignity of your dying parent. This will take your mind off from the grief that is building inside you. It also gives you the satisfaction that you are doing your duty for the parent who spent sleepless nights to care for you when you needed it.

Death may be a full stop but love is not. Neither is hope. The love of your dead parent will always be there as a consolation and your emotional wellness depends upon meeting challenges posed by death. Remember that hope sustains life!

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