The most helpful first step for you as their child is to understand the process of grief. Read through our past blog post on The Five Stages of Grief to help you know what to expect as you and your parent grieve. Comprehending the different stages and the complexity of grief is the first step to helping your parent through the process.
Be ready to accept how the loss may have changed them and how they process their grief. You may not like the way that they grieve or feel like it’s time for them to move on, but everyone grieves in different ways and to push them to do something that isn’t natural for them can slow down the grieving process. You will have to learn to walk the line between encouraging them to do what is healthy and not pushing them beyond what they’re ready to do.
Help your parent be independent. This may take awhile to get them back on their feet but showing them how to do new things can help them become independent again. Teach him or her something new that the deceased used to do rather than taking it on yourself. This could be anything from balancing the checkbook to maintaining the car to cooking.
Encourage your parent to delay making major decisions, such as selling a home or moving to a new part of the country--for at least one year after the death. It takes time to get back to a new normal and making decisions during times of distress will only cause regret further down the road. Discourage other major financial decisions as well. Remind them that they have time to grieve and make decisions at a later time.
Call your parent frequently, and make sure they feel comfortable calling you more often. Let them know that you want to talk to them so they don’t feel like a burden. A surviving parent may become very dependent on his or her children for communication and companionship, at least in the short term. Remind others in your family to call your parent as well so they can connect with others who care about them.
Encourage your parent to make a new life for himself or herself. Encourage him or her to make new friends, take up new activities, and find new focus in life. It may take some time to feel ok when they go out and do new things and meet new people, but eventually it will be normal and life-giving. The new activities and friends will give them something to look forward to and help them move on.
You have suffered a loss as well and to best help your parent, you need to grieve as well. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect or hide your feelings from your parent. You both are in a process that is painful and takes time to get through. Be patient with yourself and with your family as you journey towards acceptance and life after loss of your loved one.
Have you learned other things that have helped your parent or yourself move on after losing a spouse? Share your insights with us here, or on our Facebook page, so others can benefit from your experience.