Grief: How Long Should it Take?

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A floral arrangement we received from family that could not attend the funeral.
A floral arrangement we received from family that could not attend the funeral. | Source

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.

My Dad

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?

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.)

In Conclusion

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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Comments 6 comments

JimSwettenham 23 months ago

Diane what an awesome article...I know how difficult this kind of an article is to write...I wrote a lengthy newspaper article about my Father (George Bramwell Swettenham) when he suddenly passed away in Lloydminster Hospital the day after Father's Day 1977...I did not get a chance to see him or be with him on his last day...he beat me to the punch the day before when he called me to wish me a Happy Father's Day...the next day he was gone and Father's Day has been bitter sweet for me ever since...I hated Father's Day because it was the last time I spoke to my Father, but I have two children (now adults with children of their own) of my own and they need to be granted the opportunity to observe Father's Day...I think grieving is a life-long process because even now as I write this tears are welling up in my eyes...KUDOS to you for sharing this healing step with us...Bless you...HUGS...Jimbo


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brsmom68 23 months ago from Alberta, Canada Author

Thank you for your kind words. I am finding the holidays and other special occasions difficult, but hopefully getting back into my writing (and writing about it) will help me and others along the way. Each person deals with grief in their own way, and since I am a writer perhaps it will help to let others know they are not alone.


Dana A. 23 months ago

I appreciate your topic. I lost my mom in 2011. Although she had just come through a double-lung transplant and was slated to do well, she passed suddenly in the ICU. When I got the call to "get up to the hospital, your mother's condition has changed," I knew during that 25 minute drive to the hospital that my mother was dying. When I arrived, she was gone. They had worked on for the whole time I was travelling to get to her. I will never recover from that day, but I have no regrets. I was there EVERYday at my mother's side in that ICU and I prepared for her homecoming, as well. I know my mom is resting in God's arms, where she belongs. She can breathe, well, without those old, stupid lungs anyway!


brsmom68 profile image

brsmom68 23 months ago from Alberta, Canada Author

Thank you for your comment, and my condolences to you. It is very difficult to lose someone quickly, but on the same note watching someone suffer is just as hard (if not harder). My dad's birthday would have been on Monday; that was a rough day too. It was hard to not pick up the phone and call him. May happy memories keep your mom in your heart, and don't let anyone tell you enough time has gone by.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 16 months ago from Oklahoma

It is different for everybody, but the grieving process is an essential one.


brsmom68 profile image

brsmom68 16 months ago from Alberta, Canada Author

@Larry Rankin - Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my Hub. Yes, it is different for everyone. It has been almost a year since my dad passed away, and I miss him as much now as I did the day it happened. I am coming to terms with it though, and writing has helped. I am now writing more than ever, and wishing he were here to see the progress I've made. He comes up in conversation frequently, and sometimes I find myself thinking the way he did (Farmer Mentality I call it).

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