When Your Parent Dies

I think most of us are scared even thinking about the day when they don’t pick up the phone anymore. Especially if we have a good relationship with our parent it can be even more devastating. It’s a ruthless and real part of life, that nothing lasts forever, not even the people that gave us life.

I lost my father in May 2018. It wasn’t expected, a total shock actually. He wasn’t sick (that I knew of) and he acted strong and capable. The police showed up at my door in the evening to give me the news, that my dad had died. I thought it was a joke at the time. He was known to do crazy things so I thought ‘oh here he goes again’, but the look of seriousness on the police officers faces when I laughed confirmed that I was actually wrong. He died relatively young for the developed world, 70. Reflecting back it makes sense with all the stress he endured in his life. Witnessing people getting murdered and tanks invading the country when he was a boy during the revolution. Escaping Hungary during the spread of communism. Trying to make it in the capitalistic world with nothing but a suitcase at the age of 18. Never quite feeling at home in the new country, always being a guy with an accent and then going home and people rejecting him because he had a better life over in ‘America’. Or so they thought, but I saw how home sick he was when his eyes would well up when he would speak about ‘home’. He carried pain, deep pain, and deep trauma. When he was alive, I didn’t want to notice. I was always reacting to it, instead of seeing it for what it was. After he passed, it put things into perspective and I saw his life from a bird’s eye view. Going through his personal belongings, reading old love letters, letters from friends I got to know a different side to him. A part of me was angry I never saw it, another part sad, and another part confused as to why it wasn’t shared with me.

When a parent passes, we go through a tornado of emotions. Grief, regret, deep sadness, depression, anger and then rage and then peace, and then nothing. I would go numb and not feel anything at all. I would think I am over it, how quickly I have moved on and then someone would ask a question about him and unknowingly tears would blast through the dam I had created to protect my heart. I think at some point, we become emotionally tired and then we go numb, when there is just so much feeling our system gets overwhelmed and shuts down. It can seem this person is either cold hearted or they didn’t love them that much, or they have moved through the grief process and are okay. Many times they may be in denial. The person usually doesn’t even know when its happening that they are blocking themselves off from feeling. I know I didn’t. But what I have learned from this cycle, of feeling and then not feeling is that the grief will always be there, it will be less strong but it will always be a part of me. It is something you learn to live with. It is something that needs to happen in the process of life. I feel because of it I finally matured. This made me into a woman. I went through a life initiation of maturity. I had to grow up, take responsibility for my life because it was up to me now. The grief doesn’t bring me down, or make me feel negative about life, actually the opposite. It helps me to enjoy every damn moment I have with someone, it helps me to appreciate my relationships because I never know when they not be here anymore, it helps me to live my life right now and not tomorrow, it helps me to always say I love you when I say goodbye so I don’t have regrets later, it helps me to be a better person. It also helps me to not put up with shit and not waste my time doing things or being with people that don’t respect my time.

Our parents show us what to do and also what not to do. They are one of our best teachers in life and when and how they pass, teach us this as well. Did they truly live their life? Did they live how they wanted to live? Did they feel happy? Did they fight to survive or did they slowly drink, smoke or eat themselves to death? Death I believe is the greatest teacher. Yes, it is scary when you don’t know it, we fear what we don’t know. But it is a natural stage of life. Our society is scared of it, afraid to talk about it. But we have to! We will all go through it, everyone we know will go through it. How much better had it have been had I been able to talk to my Dad about it, to not have been afraid, to not have seen it as taboo. I think back and I wish we had talked about it, things would have been much easier. There wouldn’t have been regrets, there wouldn’t have been questions that deeply pained my heart, there wouldn’t have been confusion around what do with his ashes, there wouldn’t have been unsaid feeling.

I lost my father when I was 28, nothing prepared me for it. I didn’t have any friends that had been through it to turn to, I didn’t have much support because I didn’t have family around. I had to figure it out on my own. Thankfully, I had my spiritual practice. It provided me the support, the tools and the experience that I was not alone and nor would I ever be. I could feel my father all around me now that he wasn’t confined to a human body. I could feel his love, now that he no longer had his masculine ego involved. My experience of the spirit world deepened, my wisdom of life grew and I saw things from a new perspective. Life wasn’t scary, it was a process. A journey that keeps shifting and turning and every day is like another page in a chapter. We go through so many chapters in life. Some good, some bad, but they are all teaching us, they are all a part of the story that makes us, us. It’s beautiful and we get to decide how we want to see that story. We can be a victim or we can be empowered, it is up to us. We can’t decide everything that happens to us, but we can decide how we want to see it.

sunsets are great teachers

When one or both of your parents die, it won’t be easy. I will not say that. It is hard, it is scary as f***, it is real. But it is in these moment that you are truly present with life, you are really touching it. You will see sides of people you didn’t know were there, some good and some bad. You will see friends be there for you and you will see some fade away afraid of it. You will see how family members react, some will be loving and some will turn out to be on the darker side of human nature. You will discover strengths you didn’t know you had, you will grow in wisdom. Sides of you, you didn’t know existed will emerge. Because you are no longer confined to a narrative.

When a parent dies, their idea of you also goes in some ways, you can decide now who you really want to be. I felt this tremendously. My father had created an identity for me and when he was gone, the structure that held it fell a part. I realized a lot of things I was doing, I didn’t really like, I realize in a lot of the ways I was, it was him. I had a choice, I didn’t have to do those things or be like that anymore. I am still going through this process, letting things go that aren’t really me, it has been a bit destabilizing because what once held this identity, this old me is gone. The ego is dissipating in a different way from my yogic or spiritual training. It has been confusing, but knowing what I am going through as been helpful.

During these difficult times, EFT (emotional freedom technique) has helped me enormously. Walks in nature, spending time with loved ones, getting out of the home where he died and letting go of all his stuff, prayer, letting myself cry, surrounding myself with inspirational people and things and also giving myself the time and space to grieve. I think that is something that is missing in this society. We are expected to cry for 2 days, have a funeral and then get back to work and act like nothing happened. This is insane! We need the time and space to let the emotions come and go, we need the space to be held and to feel safe, we need to allow the wisdom of life time to permeate into our being.

For all of you that have yet to loose a parent, are scared of it or have been through it- I hope my experience has given you some insight, some feeling of comfort or perhaps opened this up for you to think about and contemplate. I think it is very important to talk to your parents about this, to discuss what you need to discuss and really tell them how you feel about them. I think it’s important to know that when it does happen a lot of people may be uncomfortable with it and may avoid you because they do not know what to say; don’t take it personally, it is because they are scared, too busy with their own life, or unaware that support is needed for you at this time. However, you may see an outpouring of love and support that really brings people together. It depends on your community and the situation. Take the time you need to grieve, if you don’t want to go out in public don’t. Honour yourself, when you are ready you will know. Get support, don’t rely on family and friends because they don’t really know how to deal with it and they may be going through it themselves – get a counsellor, a healer, a grief therapist, someone to talk to you that you don’t have to feel guilty about. A way of connecting to Spirit/God/ Goddess or yourself is important. Explore or use the practices you already have to support you.

Most of all, let the process be the process. Let yourself feel, it is through feeling that you can heal. Don’t suppress the emotions or stop the tears. They are cleansing you. Let the river of life flow. Let go of their belongings when you are ready, keep a few things that make you happy but let go of anything that holds any pain. I had to clear out a farm house and a century barn that was full of his stuff (he was a hoarder). It felt good to clear it away and it was healing. The energy needs to flow, don’t let it stagnate that is how dis-ease happens.

Death is challenging, we don’t have the social structure and traditions we use to in the past (tribal life) to support us. There will be times you feel you are loosing your mind and it’s okay. There will be times when you want to bury your head in the ground, there will be emotions you don’t want to feel. It is okay, it’s all okay. Know that you are not alone, you are surrounded by beings that love you both in this world and in the spirit world. All of your ancestors shine their love down to you, praying for you to succeed. All of your angels guiding and protecting you. And your parent, your mother or father, or both – are there raining their love to you. They are all around you now, back in the oneness of creation, back in the fabric of the universe that holds this world together- love.

You will get through this. This will pass and you will be better for it. Seek out the support you need, practice self loving care and know my love is with you through this time. ❤

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