For many of us in our 20s and 30s our baby boomer parents are aging and so it inevitable that we will have to face losing one or both parents in the near to immediate future. The very idea of losing a parent is one you are never truly prepared for and cannot fully understand unless you’ve experienced it.
When your mother passes away it’s as if all the warmth has gone out of the home, while when your father passes away it’s as if all the security has. There’s some real truth to that statement. However, it’s only when you face losing one or both of your parents that you really understand that statement because now you have to be the one that’s there for them. You have to comfort and protect your parent in a way you never had to before and it will be very difficult. You’ll have to face seeing your parent in a more helpless light than you’ve ever seen them before and when we’re used to seeing our parents as giants that can be shocking to see. When your parent finally passes away there is grief, but also a sense of their absence that you’ll probably always feel.
It is important that you spend time with your parent during their last days as it will be the last time you have to be with them. Even if your relationship with your parent is not a good one this will be the last opportunity to make peace with them and if you don’t choose to exercise it you may regret it later on.
After the passing of a parent there is a tendency to feel a bit lost and unsure of how your life will proceed from there. What happens after that point will be dependent on what kind of support you have from others in your life. If you have a great deal of friends and family supporting you in your time of grief it’s likely your life will continue in the same direction. However, if you don’t have that kind of support you’ll likely start to re-examine your life and consider making changes going forward.
In the aftermath of the passing of a parent there are usually questions regarding the estate. Regrettably there are numerous stories where someone comes along and tries to take advantage of the grief and pain that a family is going through; and to try and get as much money out of your parent’s estate. Often times, this threat will come from an unexpected direction. It could be another family member saying to trust them, it could be a government official trying to take possession of the estate so they can levy fees and taxes and eat up everything, it could be a friend with a great investment scheme for the family, or numerous other permutations. The important thing is to be aware that this could happen and to figure out how you will handle it should it occur. Make sure you know what’s written in your parent’s will so you can ensure their last wishes are carried out properly. Whatever you inherit look after it yourself. Do not turn over your inheritance to someone else to look after as this is often how people are taken advantage of. Also, if it’s not written in the will, and your parents are open to discussing it, ask them what sort of funeral arrangements they would like prior to their passing away.
When someone passes away how others react varies quite a lot and some of those reactions may surprise you. What is unavoidable is that there will be someone in your life that will let you down and not be there for you in your time of grief. Death does funny things to people and how people react to it often shows their true character. Whether you should forgive this person for not being there for you, during such a difficult time, will be a personal choice and one that you may need some time to figure out. However, what it will always demonstrate is that with this individual you cannot rely on them in difficult moments because if they were not there for you when you lost a parent it’s unlikely they’ll be there during other hard times.
After the funeral there is a tendency for family and friends to be distant and removed to give the immediate family of the deceased time to grieve in private. However, it is those who check in with you in the weeks after the funeral that you tend to remember as those being there for you.
Cleaning out the home of a loved one can be an emotionally horrendous experience and take a lot of time. Seeing all of your deceased parent’s things will cause you to be flooded with memories and so sorting through what to keep and what to get rid of can be heartrending. In the end though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to keep all of your deceased parent’s things and you will have to be ruthless in order to get through everything that’s there. While it’s recommended that you not rush to do this, by the same token, if it’s been dragging on past a year or so, you may have to consider bringing in some help. For the things you don’t want to keep there are often dealers who will come, go through your things, and sell them on consignment for you (a fair percentage for consignment is 50%). They can be enormous help with cleaning out your parent’s place, but make sure to do some checking to see if they’re reputable.
Lastly, it is highly recommended that at some point you take a trip somewhere you’ve never been in order to help get away from your grief at the loss of your parent. It’ll help to not only distract you, but allow you to start to take the first step of learning to live your life without your parent and start to be able to remember them without grief.