When you're facing the death of a parent, your range of emotions can vary from overwhelming grief to lighthearted reminiscing from moment to moment. You may have a number of different feelings, perhaps all at the same time, and that is normal and acceptable. But if you have trouble coping with your feelings or are tempted to act on your feelings in inappropriate ways, like striking out at someone in anger or hurting yourself in sadness, you should seek professional help immediately.
Of course, the most predictable emotion you will probably feel is sadness. That is not to say that you are "expected" to feel sad or that you will indeed feel sad. Everyone experiences death in their own way, so don't worry if you don't take the traditional route. However, if your sadness seems overwhelming or unmanageable, it could be growing into depression. If you start to lose interest in things you normally care about or if you feel hopeless or suicidal, seek professional assistance.
2. Disbelief or Denial
Denial is a common stage in the grief process. It’s normal for you to have trouble accepting the fact that your parent is going to die. You may feel disbelief and insist he is going to recover. You may feel reluctant to talk about the impending death. It’s important for a person facing death to have someone to talk to about it, though, and to be able to talk about his wishes and preferences and make any advance arrangements he wishes to make. Ideally, you would set aside your feelings to help your parent in that way, but if you can’t, your parent needs someone else to talk to about those matters. Contact a local hospice provider for assistance and someone for your parent to talk to.
3. Anxiety or Fear
You may find during this process that you experience a great deal of anxiety or fear. There are overwhelming issues that you are dealing with: the cost of medical care or a funeral, the physical discomfort -- and you're role in helping with it -- prior to a parent's death, your worry over how your other parent will cope with the loss, your worry over how you're going to cope with the loss, your worry over whether something like this may happen to you. Add that to the fact that there may be other people in your life -- such as your children -- who are looking to you for cues as to how to handle the situation, and it can all be overwhelming.
People react to stress and fear in different ways, and one of those ways may be anger. You might feel angry at your parent for leaving you, angry at the doctors for not saving her, or angry at God for taking her. This does not make you a bad person, and, in fact, is quite common with people experiencing grief. Go easy on yourself, and allow yourself to feel angry.
Part of your anger may stem from feelings of guilt. You might feel guilty for not being able to do more to help your dying parent. You might feel guilty about things you did or said in the past or about things you didn’t do or say.
6. Other Emotions
You will find in this journey that although your experience may be similar to others in the same situation, yours will be unique and therefore normal for you. You may feel jealous of others who aren’t facing the impending death of someone they love. You may feel a sense of relief that a long and difficult illness is almost over. You may feel confusion, frustration, discouragement, longing, hope and loneliness. Whatever you're feeling, it's okay, but if you find these feelings to become too overwhelming or debilitating, seek out help through professionals, a support group or even family and friends.
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