Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life. Anne Roiphe
This article is one in which I have thought about writing for quite some time yet have postponed it because of the personal nature of the material and the intense feelings connected to it.
Yet, it is time. I feel ready.
The subject is too important to wait any longer to write about it. The recent death of Carrie Fisher and her Mom, Debbie Reynold’s reaction to it, and then her subsequent death a day later, compelled me to write about what it is like for a parent to lose an adult child through death.
This Isn’t Supposed to Happen
For many parents, it feels like an unnatural occurrence for an adult child to leave this earth before their parents. I so clearly remember three years ago watching my own Mom dealing with the devastating death of her son, my brother.
The death of someone we love is always profoundly painful, yet there is something even more emotionally horrific about a parent losing their own child.
So many distressing thoughts and unanswered questions may plague us.
- “How could this be?”
- “I’m not ready.”
- “Why him/her and not me?”
- “This isn’t supposed to happen.”
The devastation and disbelief that we could outlive our own adult child is unfathomable. The thought that this cannot be happening, that this is not supposed to happen this way is overwhelming and often debilitating.
The thought that one of our life’s dreams, to have a child to love, nurture and cherish has been taken, that this dream has ended, is unbearable.
The Loss of My Child
For many of us, wanting and planning for a child and a family, is one of the most significant and joyful decisions we make in life. Thus, losing our child at any age, this essential part of our family, often magnifies the feelings and complicates the grief.
Dealing with any loss, enduring any grief is huge, but there’s something about losing a child that magnifies the feelings experienced during the grieving process. This includes denial, anger, bargaining and depression.
“Part may occur simply because there is little recognition of the powerful bond that exists between parent and child even though that child is grown and independent.”-Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., professor of psychology and senior consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America.
Sympathy for the loss is often focused on the spouse and/or their children and not the parent of the adult child. Thus, there may be a feeling of a lack of support for their grief. The parent of the adult child may feel a lack of control if the spouse is managing the details of the burial and funeral.
As an aging parent, the loss of the adult child is just one more loss to add to many endured with age and further complicates the grieving process.
What is My Purpose?
The questioning of ones’ purpose in life is very natural when their role is changed and the anticipated joy of watching a child fulfill their life goals is taken. “How can I go on?”
For more tips on dealing with the loss of an adult child, please click on the link below for my complete article.
My wish for you today is that you find peace during difficult emotional times.
-Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD
Director Nassau Guidance and Counseling