One is never truly prepared for this painful loss.
The death of a parent can be devastating. When we were younger, the idea of a parent dying seemed almost alien to us. We live in a bubble thinking that all those we love would never leave us. As we grew up, we began to slowly realize that death is inevitable, and someday we will have to bid goodbye to the very parents who raised us and loved us as nobody could.
For many, the moment comes without notice and the pain is unbearable, but that is not to say that the ones who knew their parents were going to die had It easier. The experience differs from person to person. In some cases, the parent has probably been ill for years and the doctor gives the family an estimate of how time they have left. In others, the signs begin to show gradually, worsening as each day passes by. As we process what is going to happen, we may end up coming to terms with many things we might not have otherwise.
You will notice that your parent suddenly needs you around more than ever. From something as simple as just having you sit next to them for comfort to requiring your assistance for baths, you will realize that the roles have reversed and that you are the parent now and your parent the child. In this strange circle of life, you will notice yourself doing everything they did for you when you were younger.
During this period, it is only natural to think of all your memories together and relive your entire life as you come to terms with the fact that they won’t be around soon. This may bring up various emotions ranging from happiness to anger. The worst feeling however is that of guilt, “I wish I had spent more time with mum,” “I wish I had come home for Christmas when dad called,” “I wish I had told mum I loved her more often.” The guilt of not having done enough when you could have can become incredibly painful to deal with.
Often in this period, people start forgiving or ask to be forgiven. You might feel like thanking your parent or saying sorry for something you did years ago, and it is expected, but it is also time to listen to what they have to say, even if it is something you didn’t quite expect or want to hear. You realize that you rather allow them to speak and let out what they have been wanting to say instead of letting them die with a heavy heart.
A part of growing old and dying is slowly losing control over everything, including your cognition. Time may be passing very differently for your dying parent. They may suddenly lose focus or remember something from a distant past while forgetting what they were doing at that exact minute. With their condition worsening, you may notice them struggle to make sense of what is happening. As they deal with the confusion, you may begin to feel as helpless and heartbroken as they are.
As you watch your parent die, the harsh reality of life may hit you like never before – we are all going to die someday. You may start worrying a lot more about your own death, about what would happen to your family after, your children, and everything else in your life that you so cherish.
The death of a parent will hit you hard regardless of how prepared you think you are, and how you deal with it is your journey.