Grief: How Long Should it Take?
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The Death of a Parent
The death of a parent is not an easy life event to cope with; death itself never is.
As adults, many people watch their parents suffer for weeks, months or even years when illness creeps in and takes hold. Cancer, Alzheimer's and ALS are just a few of the medical conditions that claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Those that commit themselves to caring for ill parents deserve the highest respect; it is not an easy feat by no means.
The other side of it is when a parent dies suddenly; there are unsaid words and loose ends left. My experience deals with the latter; words unsaid.
I have dealt with death many times over the course of my 46 years, but none have been as devastating to me as the death of my dad in July 2014. New Year's Eve marked month five since his passing, and it hasn't become any easier.
I was with him when he had his heart attack, and waiting for the ambulance to arrive seemed to take forever. I regret not telling him I loved him while we waited, or when the attendants were putting him into the ambulance. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and was not allowed to see him until he was stabilized. I could hear him talking, and knew he was in severe pain. I told the nurse to let him know I was right outside the door, and that he needed to cooperate with them. A few moments later I heard "drop the bed" and all hell broke loose. That was when he crashed, and my world has not been the same since.
Making a Decision
While I waited for the hospital staff to try to revive my dad, I met my mom and two sisters outside the hospital. We were approached by the doctor and given the facts: CPR was not working and they had been at it for over 40 minutes. We had to make a decision; let him go or have them continue.
The four of us were in the room with him when they stopped CPR; it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to be a part of in my entire life. We knew he would not be the same man if they did revive him at that point; his brain had been without proper oxygen for much too long. He would be only the shell of the man we knew and loved, and not Dad.
The Days that Follow
The days that follow the death of a loved one are busy ones: making funeral arrangements, notifying family and friends and getting through the service itself. These are the days that we, as people, do not allow ourselves to grieve - there are just so many things to do.
It is the days, weeks, months and years that follow that are the hardest. I have made it through the days, weeks and five months, but dread the years ahead. My dad and I had a good relationship, and I loved spending time with him. He was a farmer through and through, and I do have to say, I appreciate his way of life. I helped out whenever I could, and the last few years were spent learning more about it than just moving bales from Point A to Point B (which had been my main "job" every fall). I think he called on me the most because he knew I liked being out there and helping out. There is just something about sitting in a truck at the top of a hill and taking in the 360 degree view. He was also very willing to share his knowledge (and hay bales and oats for my alpacas).
Anyway, back to coping. Yes, coping. We all have different ways to cope with death, but should we just be "coping" or should we find ways to move on without the feelings of guilt, unsaid words and all that is part of missing someone so much it hurts?
Working Through Grief
How Long Should We Grieve?
How long is too long?
I have heard others say, and have used the term myself, "life goes on". It does go on, but that does not mean we should forget about the person we lost. The reality of it is, the ones left behind are the ones who suffer the most.
My dad wasn't an affectionate man; he'd stiffen up when I hugged him (not something I did often enough). On Father's Day I went to visit him, and gave him a hug when I got there. No hug back...he just tensed right up. I expected that though, but secretly wished he would have at least made an attempt.
It is remembering the little things that bring the most tears to my eyes. I look through pictures of him holding my kids and see how proud he was. (Dad was all about the pictures, most likely because there were none taken of him while he was growing up.) We gathered pictures of him for the slideshow during the service (four songs worth), and the earliest one we found of him was when he was in High School. That was why he insisted on always having a camera in the house, and would get upset if pictures "weren't" taken. (June 2004 when he had his first heart attack, we didn't take any pictures of him in the hospital and he was upset about it.)
Now, I ask again: how long is too long?
Even though life goes on for the rest of us, the grieving process should have no timeline. There are so many circumstances that affect our emotions through the process. There is first the anger (why did it have to be him?), then the guilt (why didn't I see it coming and do something to help sooner) and finally reality setting in (he is really gone; how do I carry on?).
I am learning it is an ongoing process, and the process is different for each individual. It is the healing process that must begin now, and for me writing this Hub has been a start. I haven't written much since Dad died, and have felt I needed to give myself a kick in the butt to get back into it. My cousin said it wasn't something I should be forcing myself to do, and to write when I was inspired and to rest when I needed to. (She lost her dad just over a month ago, and can relate to what I am going through in many ways.)
This is the first Hub I have written on a topic of this nature. It has been a difficult one to write, but on the same note has been a good one. Believe it or not, it has put a few things into perspective for me as I've gone along.
Whether it has been the kick in the butt I have needed, or just part of my own grieving/healing process, I have finally been able to string more than a few sentences together. That alone is a big accomplishment for me. Everyone has their own way of coping with the loss of a loved one, so don't let anyone tell you it's been long enough and to move on. The people who tell you that are either heartless, have never experienced grief or do not know how to console you.
Grieving is personal, and you should take all the time you need. Don't let anyone tell you any different.
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