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5 Things You Need to Know About Losing a Parent

I will never forget the day I got the call confirming my mom had cancer. 
We had spent the weekend thinking that she might have bronchitis or worst-case scenario pneumonia. Instead, we found out she had stage four ovarian cancer. It was one of those calls where time stands still and everything fades to black. I had just dropped my daughters off at the local rec centre for summer camp when the call came. There I was standing outside in the beautiful summer heat on what should have been a perfect summer day and my world began to narrow and crumble.

The heartache and loneliness I felt that day was brutal. I would have done anything to just sleep through it, but I didn’t. 

We had been told the night before that there was a chance that the liquid on her lungs was cancer, but even with that warning I actually did not believe it could be true. That was the beginning of mom’s 3 ½ year battle with cancer and the beginning of our long road to losing a parent. 
Me and Lisa with our a mom a few months before she passed away
December 7th, 2018 marked the one-year anniversary of losing mom. I have learned a lot this year. I wish I could say losing a parent was easier than I thought it would be, but It wasn’t. Well, maybe some things were easier then I then I thought they would be, but most things were more difficult than I could have imagined. For example, our first Christmas without her was easier than I thought, but her birthday almost destroyed me. I could not figure out what was wrong with me the week leading up to her birthday. I was irritable, depressed and could not seem to snap out of it. Her birthday day arrived and I was a mess.  The previous week started to make sense.  
I realized that with all the other holidays I was able to distract myself and just focus on my daughters. But her birthday, there was no avoiding or escaping the reality that she was gone. The heartache and loneliness I felt that day was brutal. I would have done anything to just sleep through it, but I didn’t. After years of counselling other people through loss I know that the only way through grief is through it. It sucks and it’s hard but it truly is the only way. So, I let myself just feel it and have a few good cries that day and reminded myself that no one feeling ever lasts forever. Not the happy, warm feelings and not the dark, lonely feelings either. Time does indeed go on. I am still walking through grief and learning as I go, but here is what I have learnt so far about losing a parent.

Here are 5 things you need to know about losing a parent

  1. Nothing can prepare you for this loss.
    We were told at mom’s first oncology appointment that her cancer was advanced, there was no guarantee that treatment would work and that she would eventually die of this cancer. We left pretty deflated. Even after being told that the ending to mom’s story was already written, it did not soften the blow when the day came 3 ½ years later. 
  2. Your grief is unique to you.
    No two people experience grief the same way, your grief is unique and how it unfolds may look different than other people walking through the same experience. 
  3. Losing a parent is complicated.
    Depending on your relationship, losing a parent can be complicated. It is not always what you expect. Feelings can range from anger, depression, regret, sadness, and even relief. 
  4. The grief may take longer than you think.
    Clients in my counselling practice would often ask me how long the pain would last. I wish I had an answer to this, but all I can say is that it will last as long as it needs to. There are of course exceptions to this where a professional’s intervention might be needed. 
  5. It will get easier in time- I promise.
    People told me this but I did not believe them. I can see now that although the pain of losing a parent never goes away completely, it does soften over time. Now when I think of my mom it usually brings a smile, not tears. That being said, there are still times when out of the blue I am brought to my knees (literally) with grief. Mercifully, it does not last and I am able to get back up and keep going. 
For people out there struggling with losing a parent, I hope reading this has helped you feel less alone and provides some normalization to the experiences you are walking through. 
For more information on grief:
Update: Lisa wrote a great post about finding joy at Christmas even in the grief. You can check it out HERE
Until next time,

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