Losing a parent can be one of the most traumatic events that an adult will go through. It can also present a rare opportunity for potent changes in life. When we lose a parent one of the ways we heal is by finding benefits and gifts that come out of a traumatic loss and the healing process. Often, this requires that we re-label or put new frames around old feelings and thoughts; for instance, when a parent dies it becomes easier to find our own voice. We have choices to make and are no longer obligated to endorse a parent’s belief system; we can now fully develop our own. The article from a group member below reflects the struggle to find something meaningful in the death of a parent.
– Sue Rowen, MFT; Parent Loss Group Program Director
HOPE Connection’s Parent Loss Group has been instrumental in my grief process. As much as my spouse, friends and other family members offer love and support, unless they have lost a parent themselves, they just don’t get it. They can’t. And lucky for them. Losing a parent is an unbelievably painful and complicated experience and I always feel a void. Whether you loved your parent or you weren’t so close to him/her, there is a now a part of you missing. I loved my dad very much and together with my mother, we were a very close family.
My dad passed away on October 5, 2014. I will never forget the phone call we received that my dad was in the ICU. My dad – vivacious, active, social and who up until a few months prior, was hanging blinds in my house and sketching home renovation designs. He experienced a quick descent into using a walker and not wanting to see friends, as the chemo and bone marrow disorder wreaked havoc on his body. He was not himself and was depressed because he couldn’t live the way he was always accustomed.
Ever since we said goodbye in the ICU, my emotions have been riding a roller coaster. Sometimes I’m still very angry – angry that he is gone, angry at the hospital where he was treated, angry at what I did or didn’t do. But lately, and more often than not, I’m trying to embrace a “death benefit,” that I learned about in HOPE’s group.
How can there be a “death benefit,” I thought? My dad is dead? But, I cherish the “beneficial moment” when I hear my almost two-year-old daughter identify him in photos or when my five-year-old son reminds me that “Bubba built buildings or used to play with me,” or when I see the photo of my dad so lovingly looking at and holding the hand of his grandson. The look in his eye of pure adoration and love. I hang on to these moments and appreciate them because they allow me to release the angry and negative feelings that come and go, and instead I’m able to focus on the good stuff.
My dad loved listening to Jazz. My dad loved KCRW, the local Jazz radio station. My dad loved Steve Tyrell. In fact, at my wedding he insisted our father-daughter dance was Tyrell’s version of: “The Way You Look Tonight.” My dad loved the Jazz pianist Bill Evans and told me he used to listen to his tunes when he worked on projects in Architecture school. So how appropriate and bizarre and maybe not so random that one night as I got into my car and rushed over to my HOPE group meeting, I turned on the radio and the DJ, Steve Tyrell, was hosting the KCRW hour and selected a Bill Evans song!?!? To me, that’s a sign my dad is making an appearance and showing me he is still around… wherever he is.
– Deborah K.