The death of someone, though it is a natural phenomenon, is something that you and I will never get used to experiencing. When my parents lost their first-born son, my oldest brother, it was as though everything went blank and the world stopped revolving. The pain was too much to bear, and looking at my parents made the hurt worse. As a family, we had to seek help from a minister and a therapist to guide us through the grief process. Now, I would say we have managed to live life with a purpose, though it wasn’t easy at all. We still think of him and miss him and wish he were around. However, things have settled and the family has accepted the inevitable fact. Here are some of the things that my parents did to cope with the loss of their son.
Ways to Cope
Express Yourself. My parents were not very expressive people, but they learned to become one when they wanted to lighten the burden. They often invited friends and family to visit and do get-togethers. It allowed them to talk freely about how they were, how they felt and how much they missed my brother. Crying was one of their best ways to express, especially my mother, who was the more sensitive one. They were also advised to write in a diary about their journey towards acceptance, and it has managed to ease a lot of hidden guilt and blame from within them. Parents do blame themselves at times for the death of their children simply because they feel responsible for them, no matter how old they are. As Erika Miley, M.Ed, LMHC explains the benefits, she writes; “Allowing yourself to be sad and cry means you are not numbing those emotions that you perceive as negative emotions. When we numb selective emotions, we are actually numbing all of them. Allowing yourself to cry will allow for you to experience joy, happiness, and all of the other emotions we are meant for.”
Maintain Routines. Since my brother died, it had become a family tradition to celebrate his birthday and father’s day in the cemetery, a routine that I believe had helped my parents ease the pain and manage the emptiness they felt. I think it had to do with being able to talk to him while they were there, looking at his photos and praying for him. During the first two years, we would go there twice or thrice a week, just to grieve, and it did help us. Doing chores also keep the mind forget about the loss for a time. My father goes to the farm everyday, where he can think about business and how to keep it going, mentally and physically. It has become his form of exercise.
Accept the painful reality. The hardest thing for a parent to do, that I know now. It was mental and emotional anguish to see them fight the battle of having to grieve but still having to survive for their other children. Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP once said, “It is common when coping with loss to feel so desperate that you are willing to do almost anything to alleviate or minimize the pain. Losing a loved one can cause us to consider any way we can avoid the current pain or the pain we are anticipating from loss.” The saying ‘this too shall pass’ is such a cliché but it is something to be remembered everyday in order to accept the painful reality. The sooner parents learn to accept, the better they will be able to cope. The support of family and friends are also truly essential and valuable. It is one of the most effective ways to heal, better than antidepressant and antianxiety medications. They tried taking Xanax and another popular brand but it only dulled their mind, made them oblivious of what they were going through.
A Lifetime Challenge
“The experience of losing someone we love is a process most everyone endures in a lifetime.” Annie Vaughn, MA, LMHC stated. But I believe that overcoming the death of their children is one of the challenges that parents will always be going through. They may have successfully coped with the loss and have lived with it, but they will never get over the fact that their children – their son – went ahead of them. Their joy now is in the hope that their son is in a better place, and that the family will continue to be there for each other, perhaps not to fill the emptiness but to keep that space for him and to celebrate his life while he was here.