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We all deal with loss differently. Most of the time, we don't even know how to deal with it until it happens and we are confronted with it. Even though death is something implicit, we are not taught how to deal with it, let alone how to deal with the death of a parent. Questions about death are met with resistance, they are answered vaguely as if it was something that was unlikely to happen. Some cultures celebrate death, but for many of us who live in the Western hemisphere, death is defined as separation, loss and the end of a journey.
When it comes to dealing with the death of a parent, we don't always find the support that we need from other people. Instead, they look at us like a crying baby they can't seem to soothe. Our emotional despair may be so loud that it makes them feel uneasy and they may want to try to dampen it. Some will tell you things like: "Come on, how old was he/she again? This is life. Get over it. You are an adult now.'
This is sometimes told with the best intentions (tough love). People may indeed have our best interests at heart when they say it, as if becoming an adult means becoming immune to the loss of a parent and acting like it never happened. Naturally we feel deceived, angry and cheated, but we also feel very vulnerable, lost and scared. This is normal and yes, this is healthy. This is probably the first time that we realize fully that we are not the things that shaped us. We are not our education, we are not our career, we are not our choices, we are not our mistakes, we are not just a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister and we are not our parents.
The morning when I learned that my father had just died, I calmly put the phone down, went to wash my face and started getting ready for work. I had never felt so alienated from other people as I felt that morning, watching everyday life scenes unfold in front me like a stranger to life itself. I was the branch that had just been thrown into the river and I was never taught how to float.
When we lose a parent, we deal with death before we can deal with how it affects us and where we can go from there. Death is one of the powerful forces of life and if we don't allow ourselves to grieve properly, we will miss out on the new order that comes after every break. Nothing is taken away that can't be replaced. Life is about balance, therefore as heart-wrenching as it feels, we must allow things to follow their course and show our willingness to cooperate with nature.
Step 1. Cry as much as you need
There will be days when the smallest things like letters in the mail remind you of your parent. Take heart. Let it out if you feel like you need to. Do not fight it. Instead, sit with your inner child and reassure him or her that from now on, you are taking over and you have their best interests. Let them trust you. Listen to yourself. Scream and punch pillows if it gets unbearable, then when you are ready, bring your attention back into this moment and go from there. You don't need to explain yourself.
Step 2. Get out of the house
While it is tempting to stay in bed all day and dwell on what is now the past, you need to feel alive now more than ever. Don't be a prisoner of circumstances like immobility can make you feel. Depression settles in so easily and before long, you will feel like your bed is literally eating you alive. Get out there, even if it is just for a couple hours, seek places with higher frequencies such as theater halls, cathedrals, museums and gardens. Don't be afraid to saturate your field of vision with anything that portrays the beauty and opulence of life. Stay in the moment.
Step 3. Exercise
A few months after my father died I signed up at a gym and started to attend it quite regularly to the point where my brother would ask me: "so what do you do besides attending the gym these days?" to which I replied "Nothing. I just go to the gym."
If there is nothing else that you are going to do during the time when you are still mourning, exercise. Exercise is a way to become conscious of our body again, it is how we build muscles and develop persistence. You may not know it yet, but when life suddenly throws another curveball at you, you will be ready to catch it because your mind has been trained to push against resisting forces.
Step 4. Heal emotional wounds by reconnecting with family members that you may have neglected throughout the years, and bond with them. Every family has their secrets and their equilibrium, which are challenged with the death of a member. Old wounds reopen, misunderstandings resurface yet here is a chance to break old patterns and rebuild something from scratch. After my father's death, I started speaking to my brother again. I had not talked to him in over a year, but it felt like this was a chance to forgive and mend old wounds. Our relationship is still in progress, but at least dialogue was reopened.
Step 5. Connect with a higher essence.
Connect with God. Connect with the Universe. Connect with a higher frequency. Connect with your Higher Self. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and hail the angels. Ask for love and guidance, ask for healing and courage. Write about it if you have to. Journaling is an excellent tool, as it slows down the breath and keeps your focus on the act of letting go. You may now feel small in the palm of destiny, but peace will soon find you and the things you once lost will find you soon again with absolute determination. Be well.
Step 6. Figure out who you are and what you want out of life.
Just as family relationships change, roles change as well. Molds break. We become free to reinvent ourselves and our choices. We are no longer afraid to question values that have been passed onto us and decide if they serve us well. We can choose another belief system or explore new things, such as signing up for a course or going on a solo trip to South America. It doesn't matter what we choose as long as these things give us a sense of expansion.
Step 7. Make plans for the future.
Immediately after losing a parent, we may grow distrustful of life. We may think that life can just come and snatch away anything and anyone from us at anytime. This is a normal reaction. It is in fact our survival instinct talking. A good exercise is to count our everyday blessings and consider them as signs of abundance. It means that life is trusting you with incredible moments, unfolding like gifts. Little by little, you may start to make plans again, because you have gathered enough evidence that life works for you and not against you.