Healing from the Death of a Parent

It’s an inevitable fact that at some point our parents will die.

For many the grief from the loss of a parent can be profound. There are times that you may feel unable to breathe the grief is so heavy.  Meaningful days (birthdays, holidays, anniversaries) will hit you like a hurricane, leaving you feeling like a chaotic mess.

If you have recently experienced a parent’s death, this will be a difficult time for you.  It’s ok for you to acknowledge you may be struggling; it’s ok to pause or slow down. There may be pressure for you to hold it together, or be a pillar of strength. I’m giving you permission: you don’t have to be everything to everyone!

Finding ways to manage with your own feelings and daily functioning can be a challenge. Here are some ways that you can start the healing process after the death of a parent.

Support: This could be meeting regularly with a close friend, connecting with family members, attending a grief and loss support group (if you’re in the Sacramento area check out these), or getting professional support from a therapist. A therapist that you trust will be able to guide you in processing your feelings and finding ways to heal from this significant loss.

Connection:  Identify a few ways that you felt connected with your parent. Maybe you shared a love for the same style of music or your parent always coached your sport team as a teenager. Whatever connection you had, identify a way to celebrate that. Some examples would be: see a sport game to honor your parent, download a new album of your parent’s favorite band, or keep a picture of you and your parent with you to remember the positive times.

Remembrance:  While attending the memorial services of a loved one can be emotional, it can also be one of the most healing experiences in your journey. Memorials allow you to connect with others that also loved and cared for your parent, share funny, poignant and loving memories, and share in the sadness of the loss with others.

For some individuals, choosing to remember their parent in a private, individual way feels right. You may want to a create ritual as a way to honor your parent, possibly lighting a candle and saying a prayer for them, having their favorite meal on special days, or letting balloons off to send messages to heaven.

Self-Care: Honor yourself and where you are at.  Grief is a complicated process and healing from the death of a parent looks different for each person. Drop the judgment about where you “should” be, how you “should” be healing, or what you “should” be feeling. There are no rights or wrongs. What you are feeling and experiencing is alright.

While this is probably the most challenging time for you to focus on your own self-care, this is the most important time for you to do so. Basic needs like eating nourishing foods throughout the day, trying to keep a consistent routine, doing things to ensure good sleep at night, connecting with friends and family, and moving your body with exercise daily will help you regulate your emotions.

Know what your limits are. Identify where you feel comfortable and where to draw the line. There will be extra demands upon your time, from managing the estate to family needs. Be aware of what you can give and what can wait, and be clear in setting those limits.

When the grief won’t go away: It’s impossible to put a timeframe on how long healing from a loss will take. For most, healing is a slow but a steady process toward beginning to feel at peace with the loss.

There are times when you may feel “stuck” in grief. If the heaviness and pain lingers in your life and begins to impact your daily functioning (caring for yourself or your family, impacting your ability to work, etc.) you may need additional support.

If you would like some support in your healing journey, please reach out to me at 916-547-3997. I’m here to help. Also, if you know someone who is experiencing the loss of a parent, please share this post to support them in their healing.

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist who specializes in providing counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.

 

Do I really have to rehash my childhood?

“When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

~ Fred Rogers

As a therapist specializing in helping individuals heal from trauma (particularly childhood traumas), I get asked all the time “Do I really have to talk about my childhood to feel better, it was so long ago. Can’t I just forget about it and move on?”

My response is usually “Has that worked so far in your life?”

If forgetting and moving on had worked for you so far, you wouldn’t still feel stuck in the pain of your past. For some people, possibly you, life experiences form deep wounds inside your body and mind, and take a bit more than just a “forget it and move on” attitude to actually move forward. It’s not for lack of trying! In my experience, people don’t want to experience the type of pain they do from trauma and they will do anything they can to relieve it.

The thing about trauma recovery is there is a lot of pain stored up.

To make an analogy, those painful experiences you went through are like splinters deep in your skin. Sometimes the splinter is so deep you can’t see it from the outside, but you can feel it. It’s tender and sore when you touch it. As the splinter stays in your body it can become infected. You know that even though it may be painful, you need to remove the splinter to let your skin heal and for you to feel better.

The healing work around trauma is like removing an old splinter. It’s painful to rehash and “open up” old emotional wounds, there’s sometimes infected stuff in the wound, it takes a while to heal, and it sometimes leaves a scar. Like removing a splinter, the end result is less pain, less tenderness and an overall improved quality of life.

So how does that translate to healing with the support of therapy?

There are a few steps involved:

First, we will “prepare and clean up the area where there’s a splinter”.  Therapy can help you create a safety net of coping skills, supports, and healthy living tools right now so that you’re prepared to dig into the past.

Next we “remove the splinter”.  We look at your history, help you retell your story, gain understanding around the events, and release shame and guilt.

Finally, we “help the wound heal and minimize the scar”. Together we help you integrate your past into your current life which creates the possibility for you to live authentically and see yourself as a resilient, confident person.

To return to Mr. Rogers and his infinite wisdom, talking about your feelings makes things less overwhelming, upsetting and scary.

Likewise, using therapy to talk and gain understanding about your past traumas can allow the pain to dissipate and the wound to slowly begin to heal.

If you would like to learn more about the healing process from past trauma or are ready to start your journey to heal painful wounds, please call me 916-547-3997. I’d love to chat with you about how to take that first step toward healing.

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT is a Sacramento Area therapist who specializes in providing counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.