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Grief Awareness: Processing the Loss of a Parent

by Christa Rogers, Team Leader

As a young, 7-year-old child, I learned the hard truths of the cycle of life and death. At this age, I had not yet experienced grief firsthand, but was faced with the knowledge that one day my mother would meet the fate of death. This realization shook me and I became angry at my mother, thinking one day she would permanently leave me. More than anything, I hated not knowing how much time I would have with her.

Even as I got older, the thought remained in the back of my mind that nobody lived forever. With this reminder permanently fixated to the back of my mind, I assured myself that I would grow “okay” with understanding that nothing lasts forever. My brain reiterated the rational, factual information surrounding life and death.

Unfortunately, my brain did not communicate this knowledge with my heart on December 18, 2016, when my mother passed away from stage 4 breast cancer, a diagnosis we had only learned a couple weeks prior to her death. To this day, I can still recall exactly where I was and what I was doing, even how I felt in the moment I learned she had passed. All the logic and facts my brain had kept all those years did not matter in that moment. My brain took a backseat to my heart, and I felt every emotion all at one time.

We can grieve in many different situations, not just death; however, the majority of people associate grief with death. I have felt grief in many forms over the years, but losing my mother has been the hardest grief I have had to process. Through my personal experience, I have learned that grief has no time limit or timeline expectation. I have also learned that you need an understanding and patient support system to help you through the stages of grief. I now have an appreciation toward others and their support in letting me grieve in my own way.

Let me reiterate my last point, grief has no time limit or timeline; so, individuals processing through the stages of grief each may present with unique experiences. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not a fixed order and can be navigated differently based on individuals’ subjective experience. For me, I skipped the bargaining stage in my own grief journey.

Further, grieving the death of my mother started while she was still alive. My grief processing started in the denial stage. I convinced myself that her condition was fixable and that she would recover. However, once the doctors had explained that her condition was not improving and we needed to consider hospice, my grief progressed through multiple stages; denial, acceptance, and depression. Logically my brain was processing the facts and accepting what the doctors were telling us. On the other hand, my heart ached and could not accept that my mother was on her deathbed. This caused an emotional overload that could best be described as a cloud of depression.

Once my mother had passed, my stages of grief moved through anger and depression. I felt angry with her for not seeking medical attention, and for leaving me with no goodbye or closure. Then the depression hit again, but this time it stayed for a long while.

I believe the goal for anyone grieving is to get to a place of acceptance. It is important to remember that we do not get over grief, but rather learn to live with it. Grief can be a very traumatizing experience and, for some, can change how they think, act, and feel. The journey to acceptance can be a challenging one. Thus, it is important to grieve in a healthy manner, and seek professional help if the grief becomes too much.


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