Venus Trapped in Mars

25 August 2015

How To Move On After Losing A Parent or Relative

My dad passed away when I was 19 years old. Although his heart wasn't the healthiest in the world, it was unexpected and happened quite quickly over a two week time period. Losing a parent is certainly a natural progression in life, but losing a parent in your teens or twenties will undoubtedly change the course of your life. At that age, it may feel like none of your friends can relate to what you're feeling. Although I had wonderful friends who were always there to lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen, I know I certainly felt that way.

Next June will mark 10 years since losing my dad. For a long time, it felt like life was getting harder, sadder and more lonely by the minute. I'm here to tell you that a turn will eventually come, but it won't be immediate. Until that turn, I have some advice from someone who has been through exactly what you're going through. 


1. You Have to Take The Time To Let Yourself Grieve.
I would imagine that most of those who lose a parent at a young age, won't do this. You will spend a good chunk of your time trying to console your family, and it will give you a sense of purpose for a little while, which is good. Watch over them, but know that they'll be ok with time. Remember to do what you need to do as well. You don't have to be strong 24/7, that'll give you a panic attack holding that kind of emotion in. (True story, I had more of those than I care to admit!) 

2. Do whatever you need to do to feel normal again.
I remember hearing about a high school classmate who lost his father about a month before I lost mine. His dad had passed away in a tragic accident while repairing homes after Katrina. I heard that my classmate was going back to college just a week after his dad had died. I couldn't imagine how he was able to do that so soon?

Wrong. Do absolutely whatever it is you need to do. If you need to stay on the couch for a month, stay on the couch for a month. If you want to get back to work and a routine, get back to work. If you want to travel the world, travel the world. Don't let anyone tell you how you should be grieving, as long as you're safe and not putting yourself in harms way.  

3. People aren't going to know what to say to you
There is no right or wrong thing to say to someone who has just lost a major part of their life, but people simply just have no idea where to begin. I've been through it and I still don't know what to say to someone who has just had their life shattered. If someone is there, if someone is calling, if someone is messaging, it doesn't matter what their words are. Know they are trying and present, all in an effort to support YOU. Don't get jaded, it's very hard to know the proper words to say. Sometimes there are no proper words, there is only a hug and silence.

4. Know that you'll close some chapters, and that's ok
Relationships, and I mean very important relationships in your life, will end because of this. Not because of them, but because of you. You're going to change, and you'll feel like you can't figure out how to communicate with certain people in your life any longer. You'll go through a period of anger that will blind you to the fact that people in your life are trying the best they can, but all you can see is the face of someone that can't relate the way that you need them to relate. I had a very serious boyfriend when I lost my dad, and although we stayed together for another year after, it was never the same. I wish nothing but happiness for him, and I hate that I had to end it, but I did. Please try and remember that with every chapter that closes, a new one begins. 


5. You're going to reach an angry stage, try and see it in a different light
This may sound corny, but one of the biggest things that helped me was changing my mindset to realize I now have a very personal ally in heaven. Too many things have happened to me over the last 10 years that literally make my jaw drop. From my car accident, to the exact timing of meeting CB. It all blows my mind. 

6You're going to reach an angry stage, try and see it in a different light (part 2)
Friendships emerge that you didn't realize were as powerful as they are. This part is really cool. There will without a doubt be friends who step up when you most need them, without being asked. Friendships you never realized were as meaningful as they are. These friends will be in your life forever, treasure them. 

7. Try Reading Books
My biggest question that was constantly on my mind was, "Where is dad now? Can he see me?" I'm of course well aware that this book is fiction, but reading, "The 5 People You Meet in Heaven" was a wonderful turning point for me. It simply supplied my overactive mind with an idea of life after death, and that was all I needed. 

8. Although it might feel this way at first, being sad isn't a tribute to your loved one.
You'll be happy again. Here I am, 9 years later, and I'm happy every single day. A day will come where your sadness and anger changes, and is replaced by happy memories from the time you did have. You won't know it when that day happens, but you'll have an OMG moment, realizing that you haven't cried in weeks. 

Certain things will trigger tears for the rest of your life -- for me that's a father walking his daughter down the aisle, heck I just cried typing that -- but you'll be happy again. Honor them by living the best, happiest, most fulfilling life you can. You know darn well that is what they want.
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19 comments :

  1. This is all great advice. I just can't even imagine. Grief is such a strange thing because everyone handles it differently. My youngest lost her best friend very suddenly. It happened over summer break just days before the girl turned 9. It was so hard for me, because I had no idea how to help my baby. I pretty much just had to say let me know what you need and I'll help you get it. She didn't want to go to the funeral but she went to a birthday celebration balloon send off for her. Now every year we visit her grave on her birthday and leave her something. It kills me every year to see her standing there talking to her friend.

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  2. Sarah you are so right about alot of this. I lost my Mother in April 2008 and then my oldest daughter in October 2008. My mom I was prepared for as best I could be and my daughter was a motorcycle accident. Some people can't relate no matter how hard they try.

    There are days I am happy and can think of them both and laugh and there there are days when a song, a smell, a word or a place will just bring me to my knees with sadness and grief.

    Thank you for sharing your insight. I have a long way to go with this but I am getting there.

    Trina @
    Walking My Own Path

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  3. I love this advice. I am lucky to have both parents but I lost my aunt suddenly a year and a half ago and it has been the hardest loss I have ever dealt with. I can't imagine your loss and I have to tell you I am amazed by your strength and openness in losing your dad. There has to be days when you still get angry, but I commend you for holding your head up and saying it is okay to have emotions. You rock!

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  4. you know, my mom lost her parents when she was 18 and I'm not sure if we've ever made that connection. not only does this open my eyes to what you went through (and are still going through) but what my mom went through as well.

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  5. i needed this today. today is 4 years since my father passed away from a very short battle with the killer that is pancreatic cancer. it's not this particular day that hurts, but the every day things. wanting to share with him our latest travel adventures, sending one less card for holidays. yes, the idea that he will never walk me down the aisle. my brother got married last summer, and when his fiance's dad came in to see her, it hit me. i knew it was coming, prepared for it, and thought i could handle it. i had to leave the room, and had a major crying fit. my dad and i had a better relationship in my late 20s/early 30s (he died when i was 31) the loss is worse than if i would have been your age, for me, b/c we weren't as close then. so sorry to have this in common.
    b

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  6. You Have to Take The Time To Let Yourself Grieve. <-- That one's particularly true. when my grandfather died this winter, the mix between worrying about my dad and grandma, and also feeling like I shouldn't be so sad because everything loses their grandparents led me to hold it in too. so not healthy. i know everyone goes through these emotions but when they're happening to you, you just feel so alone and can't imagine that anyone understands your feelings.

    anyway, thanks for writing this, although I'm sorry you know grief so personally to be able to.

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  7. When I was in high school, my best friend's dad died unexpectedly. As a friend trying to help someone through that, I have NEVER felt so helpless in my life. But one thing I learned through that experience is the importance of not disappearing. I mean, things between us were very different after that, you're absolutely right. But I always tried to be there whenever she needed/wanted me to be.

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  8. Great advice. I unexpectedly lost my grandfather, my mom's father, on July 4th. He came down with an infection all of a sudden and passed away a week later. No one was expecting it and it's almost 2 months now and I still can't believe he's gone.

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  9. This is all very good advice and I am sorry for your loss! We lost my brother-in-law in an accident 9 years ago. My husband went back to work almost immediately after the funeral. His co-workers would ask him why he was there and to take more time off. He said he couldn't, it wouldn't do him any good to be sitting at home. He needed to be at work doing something. We've also had to start going through this grieving process again as we have gotten word that my FIL's cancer has spread and he only has a few years at best. My heart breaks for my husband and anyone else that has had to go through loosing a parent too soon.

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  10. I can't imagine how many people this very blog post will help, or even just make someone feel like they aren't alone. Major props to you for this, Sarah.

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  11. thank you for sharing this piece of you because it's one of my biggest fears, though it will happen eventually. i also appreciate this so i know how i can better support my friend who just had this happen. thank you

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  12. As someone who lost my mom at 18, this is spot on. Thank you for being a good voice for those of us who may not have the best ways to relay what is necessary. Great post. I am dreading not having my mom here on my wedding day next month, but knowing she is watching over me and proud of me makes me feel really good. We have special guardian angels. Hugs!

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  13. I can't even imagine what you went through, but this was a beautiful post with beautiful insights. I went from never having lost anyone in my family to losing three grandparents over the course of three years (two within one month... #truelove?) - although it made it easier to know that they all led very long and fulfilling lives and no longer had to suffer from their various ailments, losing someone changes you foundationally. Thanks for writing this, I know people will find it so helpful.

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  14. Very interesting and thanks. I needed this today as I lost a friend yesterday and I have a really good friend who is losing her fight to cancer.

    I lost my mom in 1992 and dad in 1999.

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  15. The child in me hopes I never need this, but the adult in me is glad it's here when I do. Thanks Sarah.

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  16. This is such a heartfelt post and I just want to reach out and hug you. Thanks for opening up and I know that someone out there is reading this and needing it. You are amazing. OXOX

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  17. Sarah this is awesome! After losing my mom in April, I've experienced a lot of this - and I'm sure a lot to come still. Some days are overwhelming and some days are passing, but this is all great advice for how to cope. Thank you for posting this!

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  18. This is literally so relatable... It's blowing my mind. I lost my dad from a heart attack very unexpectedly at 18. It'll be four years for me in February. All of your points are spot on. A few of these I never even had thought about until you mentioned them-- especially the one about losing some relationships. Two of my very best friends, I lost during this time because of me changing. It still bothers me, but I'm glad I'm not the only one. Thank you for this post!

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  19. Great advice. I lost my mom 6 months ago. It was expected (she had lung cancer) and as soon as we got her diagnosis I moved her in with my husband and I. We were all very close. 3 years after her diagnosis I held her hand and kissed her cheek as she took her last breath. There are no words that will make a person feel better after a loss and sometimes saying nothing is best.
    I have experienced at some point every one of the things you listed.

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