It is difficult to experience the loss of a loved one, whether your relationship was good, bad, or indifferent. Ultimately, most of us love our parents tremendously. Despite imperfections, our parents, in turn, love us with unconditional love. Mourning their loss is inevitable and involves experiencing and expressing a multitude of thoughts and feelings.
No grief over loss is the same
We experience grief in different ways. Our relationship with the parent we lost, the emotional support system, and cultural and religious backgrounds influence the grieving experience. Strong emotions, varying from numbness to guilt to anger to relief can happen simultaneously or follow each other over a period of time.
Common emotions during grief
Guilt: Feelings of guilt typically accompany when the relationship with the parent was unstable or ambivalent. Wishing things were or weren’t said or regret of not having spent more time with the parent can be difficult. Working through those feelings, however, is critical to healing.
Anger: Feelings of anger toward the parent sometimes accompany relationships where abuse or dysfunction existed. The loss of a loved one can bring out painful feelings. Contrarily, anger could accompany losing a parent if the loss occurred unexpectedly or prematurely.
Sadness: Feeling sad is the most expected feeling but perhaps the depth of sadness is not expected and especially if you have lost both parents. It can be overwhelming to feel somewhat like an orphan and especially so when you think about the effects on grandchildren. It is healthy to allow yourself to feel pain and sadness.
Relief: Feelings of relief often accompany grief when the parent was sick or if you were responsible for their care before they died. This feeling does not mean you didn’t love or care about your parent.
Let yourself feel and work through feelings, treasure your memories, and work through grief. Not away from it. According to the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), there is no “right” emotion to experience. It is completely normal to experience contradictory feelings. It is a process, and it takes time to heal. Be patient with how you process. Understand that taking care of your body—nurture it, rest, eat well, and recognize you are allowed to “live” while healing.