Death of a Parent or Caregiver - Brother Martin High School

Death of a Parent or Caregiver - Brother Martin High School (PDF)

2022 • 34 Pages • 294.79 KB • English
Posted July 01, 2022 • Submitted by Superman

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Summary of Death of a Parent or Caregiver - Brother Martin High School

Death of a Parent or Caregiver The Loss of a Parent You may already have experienced the death of someone you care about—a grandparent, a neighbor, or maybe a beloved pet. After this death, you probably felt sad and upset. Eventually your feelings got easier to handle, and you probably began to remember the good times you had with this loved one. In time, sadness lessened and more peaceful feelings took its place. The death of a parent, however, is especially traumatic and is one of the most difficult things you can live through. You have a special relationship with your parent. A parent takes care of you, listens to your worries, lends a shoulder to cry on, and cheers your accomplishments. A parent’s death will undoubtedly affect you differently than that of others you may have lost. The feelings are deeper and stronger and may seem overwhelming. As an adult, losing a parent is a sad experience. It is often even harder for a child or teenager. Big and Little Changes The weeks and months following a parent’s death are very difficult. If your parent died suddenly as a result of illness, or from a traumatic event like a natural disaster or war, you may feel sorry or even guilty that you did not have a chance to say goodbye. Your home may not feel the same without your mom or dad. And, you’re right, things aren’t the same. But change is a part of life. Whether the change is good or bad, it is almost always stressful because you have to adapt to a new situation. Dealing with change takes time. The death of a parent can cause all kinds of permanent changes in a child’s or teenager’s life. This may be especially true if your parents don’t live together. If you live with only one parent and that parent dies, you may wonder: Who will be there for me? Who will take care of me? But the important thing to remember is that whatever happens, you will be cared for. Moving Some young people will have to move to a different apartment or house. For many families, the loss of a parent also means the loss of income. Your living parent may no longer be able to afford the existing mortgage or rent. A new home may even be in another city or state. This change may be particularly stressful because you will have to say good-bye to your old friends and neighbors. You’ll have to make new friends and get used to a new place and a different school. It takes time to adjust and fit in. Relatives and Foster Parents Sometimes children or teens may be sent to a relative’s home to live for a while. A parent may need time alone to cope with his or her grief. He or she may also need time alone to get details, such as living arrangements and financial affairs, in order. Your parent may not be able to give you the care and attention you need and deserve while he or she is trying to work things out. Another relative may be in a better position to give you support, with both day-to-day living and emotions. Other times, young people are sent to live permanently with relatives or foster parents. A foster parent offers to provide a home for and care for children who are not relatives. Moving into a foster home means adjusting to a new family. You have to adapt to your relatives or foster parents, their household, and their rules. You may also have to attend a new school, depending on where your relatives or foster family lives. It’s okay to feel scared if you have to move. You may not feel at home right away, but you may be able to ease your feelings by honestly communicating with your relatives or foster parents. They will become your caregivers. They will provide you not only with food and clothing but nurturing, guidance, and discipline. Being honest about your needs and your feelings is one way to help ensure that your move will go smoothly. Additional Responsibilities Other young people will be able to stay in their homes after their parent dies. However, they may have to take on more responsibilities at home. They may have to babysit their younger siblings or cook dinner while their parent works. Some teenagers will need to get a part-time job to help out with expenses. When a parent dies, one less person is available to run a household and a family. Everyone has to pitch in and help. Helping out with chores or finances can enable you to feel important to your family. This may ease the pain of grieving. But don’t try to take over the role of a parent completely. That’s too much of a responsibility to take on as a teenager. Grief and a Range of Emotions Death is a fact of life. Unfortunately, sometimes people die before they reach old age. Losing a parent is painful and difficult. This is true whether your parent has died after a long illness or has died suddenly. Common Physical Reactions After a Death After a parent or someone close to you dies, you might have some physical reactions. These reactions can include headaches, jaw and/or throat tightness, heart palpitations, numb or tingling sensations, dizziness, nausea or stomach pains, fatigue, cold and clammy hands, the need to urinate frequently, dry mouth, neck or shoulder pain, tightness in the chest, and sweating. If you aren’t feeling well, don’t keep the information to yourself. Although the feelings will diminish and go away over time, if you are concerned by how you are feeling, you should see a physician. Blaming Yourself It’s important to realize that the death is not your fault. Nothing you did or could have done would have prevented it. It was out of your control. Sometimes when you feel guilty, you need someone else to help you see the truth. After a parent’s death, some people turn their guilt into anger. They express their anger by getting into fights, hurting people, or damaging property. The best way to deal with this anger is to talk to someone. Talking about your feelings—whether guilt, anger, sadness, or whatever they may be—helps to overcome them. Voicing Your Feelings Communication and talking about how you feel is incredibly important and is crucial to the healing process. Stuffing your feelings deep down won’t make them go away. When you don’t express your feelings, emotions seem overwhelming and hard to handle. The feelings will also return again and again. By talking to someone else, you help yourself face your painful and uncomfortable feelings and conquer them. Remember, you don’t have to bear your grief alone. There are others who care about you and want to help you deal with your parent’s death. Grief The powerful emotions that you experience when a parent dies are called grief. Grief is intense emotional suffering that a traumatic event causes. Grief doesn’t feel good—it hurts—but it is necessary. A person needs to grieve to be able to accept someone’s death and to say good-bye to that person. Grief can last a long time. But eventually it lessens and finally disappears. The sadness becomes bearable and easier to talk about. After your grief eases, you will once again remember the happy times you shared with your parent. You may never completely stop longing for your parent, but you will be able to go on with your life. Stages of Grieving When people mourn a loved one, they go through what is known as the grieving process. This refers to the series of feelings people experience when they mourn. During these stages is immense sorrow and sadness. Some people go through all of the stages, but others do not. There is no fixed pattern for grieving, since everyone grieves in his or her own way. There is also no set time period to reach acceptance of a parent’s death. Shock When a parent dies, your initial reaction may be shock and confusion. You may feel numb and incapable of fully understanding what is going on. This numbness will lessen in time as the shock wears off. There will be waves of sorrow and sadness. This can hit you powerfully all at once, or it may gradually build in strength. But this is just the beginning of the journey through the grieving process. Denial Some people go into denial after the death of a loved one. Denial is ignoring or suppressing one’s true feelings and refusing to acknowledge the reality of the situation. People may not want to recognize that their parent is dead. It is too painful for them to admit that they won’t ever see their parent again. People use denial to escape from a painful event. You can use your imagination to pretend something has not really happened. A parent’s death can make you feel as if you want to run away. In most cases you cannot really run somewhere else—and doing so wouldn’t help anyway—so you escape inside yourself. If you think you may be in denial, be patient with yourself. Eventually you will have to admit the truth and accept your parent’s death. Try not to get frustrated wondering when your denial will end. Give yourself the time you need. It’s not easy to let go of the special relationship you had with your parent. Anger Sometimes people become angry when faced with death. For example, although you may know your parent did not intend to get sick, you may be angry that he or she left you. You may be furious that your parent wasn’t able to prevent his or her death from happening. If your parent died from an accident or a natural disaster, or while serving in the military, you may feel angry at the whole world. It’s okay to be angry. Don’t feel guilty about it. Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are. Also, don’t get upset with your brother or sister if he or she is angry with your parent for dying. Let your sibling express his or her feelings; it is part of the grieving process. You may be angry simply at the fact that your parent has died. You may not know whom to blame. But blaming someone won’t make your feelings go away. Examine what is underneath your anger. Often it’s fear or sadness. Many people turn their hurt into anger. But working your way through denial and anger will put you more quickly on the path to accepting your parent’s death. Bargaining When a family member is dying, we might try to make a deal with ourselves or God to spare that person’s life. For example, we might say something like, “If he makes it through this surgery, I’ll try harder in school” or “If she gets better, I’ll devote my life to helping others.” Usually, we don’t share these bargains with others. An extreme form of bargaining for the life of a loved one is saying something like, “Take me instead, and let her live.” These kinds of bargains are another reaction to our powerlessness against death. It is an attempt to gain some control over something we don’t want to have happen. Though this type of bargaining is irrational, it is an important step in getting ready to say good-bye. Depression Depression is when nothing seems worth doing. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad most of the time, withdrawing from others, feelings of worthlessness, not eating or sleeping normally, losing interest in activities you usually enjoy, and feeling slowed down physically. It is a normal stage of mourning and should not be ignored or rushed. However, if you find yourself heading deeper and deeper into depression, or if you feel that you’ve been depressed for too long, you should seek help. Talk to family members and/or seek counseling. Eventually, as your depression falls away, piece by piece, you will begin to resume the routines of daily life, and you will start to feel better. Acceptance After you have come to terms with your loss, you will feel more like yourself again. You might have sad moments, but you’ll be able to function more normally. Don’t try to force yourself into this state of acceptance. Acceptance will come naturally, eventually. Time is the great healer. When a dying person has accepted the possibility of his or her own death, he or she might wish to see fewer people, or even be alone. You should understand that this is a natural reaction to the situation. It does not mean that the dying person has rejected you or other family members. Four Tasks of Mourning Another way to look at the grieving process is the “tasks” model. This process, which is similar to the emotional stages of grieving, is especially relevant as related to young people. Many people, including Sigmund Freud, have said that grief is hard work. It is emotionally exhausting and physically draining. Along this line of thinking, psychologist William Worden outlined what he referred to as the four tasks of mourning in his book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy (originally published in 1982). These are four tasks that a grieving person must accomplish in order to promote his or her own healing. Accepting the Reality of the Loss: The point at which the grieving person is no longer in denial about the death and is ready to acknowledge and face the reality that the person has died. Experiencing the Pain of Grief: The grieving person no longer suppresses his or her feelings and allows him- or herself to feel the pain of grief. Experiencing and expressing grief rather than suppressing it is an important part of the healing process. Adjusting to a New Environment in Which the Deceased Is Missing: The grieving person begins to adjust to the changes in his or her life. This may mean taking on new roles and responsibilities and facing the requirements of the new situation. Emotionally Relocating the Deceased Person and Moving On with Life: The grieving person forms a new relationship with the memories of the deceased person. The grieving person must find a way to cope with the memories of his or her loved one in a way that allows him or her to go on with his or her life rather than holding on to the past. So Many Emotions It is natural to feel a flood of emotions when a parent dies. Experiencing so many painful feelings at one time can be confusing. You may feel that the only way to go on is to believe that your parent is still alive. You know it’s not true, but you act as if it were. This sort of denial is called a defense. It is a way of holding back the flood of emotions that you feel. Talking to people you trust about how you feel can help. If you don’t want to talk to your parent, you could talk to a friend, therapist, teacher, coach, or guidance counselor. You may also want to talk to a religious advisor, such as a priest, pastor, or rabbi. Danger Signs Grieving is a natural process, but it is painful and traumatic. At times, it will seem overwhelming. These feelings are normal and should lessen in time. However, if feelings such as depression or anger continue, that could be a sign you need help getting through the grieving process. Some signs that you or someone you know is not healing properly include the following: • Thoughts of suicide • Turning to drugs or alcohol • Avoiding other people • Feeling constantly angry or tired • Feeling that life has no purpose • Suddenly acting in ways that put one’s life at risk, such as driving wildly, or taking up dangerous sports that were never of interest in the past • Not caring how you look or dress • Indifference to activities or hobbies you used to enjoy • Looking or feeling sad and experiencing a prolonged depression Should these signs develop in you or in others affected by death, it is time to seek professional counseling. There are support groups for young people in mourning as well as individual grief counselors to whom you can turn. Therapists and grief counselors, have special training and can help you sort out what you are feeling. Your school guidance counselor, family doctor, or local mental health organization can help you find these resources. When a Parent Lives Far Away These days, living with one parent is very common. Many, many young people live with either their mom or dad. Some live with their grandparents or other relatives. That doesn’t have to change the love you feel for the parent who doesn’t live with you. And you will still feel a loss if this parent dies. When You Live Far Away From Your Parent Sometimes a parent leaves home and moves hundreds of miles away. This is hard on children. They don’t get to see that parent often. Maybe they see each other only at holidays, or during the summer. Or they get together just once or twice a year. Sometimes they cannot visit at all. Even a child who didn’t see his or her parent often feels angry and sad when that parent dies. He or she probably thought that someday they would spend more time together. The child is angry because that dream is taken away. Living apart from a parent doesn’t make death less painful. The importance of a relationship is not based on whether your parent lives with you. There is more to it than that. The way you feel about the person is what’s important. If what you remember is good, then you will probably be very sad. When a child or teen loses a parent who lives far away, he or she grieves just like anyone else. Except sometimes it’s harder. Your friends may not understand why you are so upset. Perhaps they never met your mom or dad. They don’t know how strong your feelings are. Your grief is as painful as it would be if the parent lived with you. You have a right to feel sadness, no matter how far away your parent lived. When the Parent You Live With Dies What happens to young people whose parents are divorced when the parent they are living with dies? Their remaining living parent may live hundreds of miles away in another state. He or she may have a new family. There is no single answer. Some parents eagerly want their children to live with them and their new families. But many times this is not possible. In some cases, a state or local child care agency will get involved. You will be interviewed by a case worker. You may appear in front of a judge in family court. You are not there because you have done anything wrong. It’s the judge’s job to make sure that your new home is the best one for you. Sometimes the best place to send you is to your grandparents or other close relatives. When this is not possible, you may be placed with foster parents. Serious Illness and Spending Time in the Hospital Many teens are forced to deal with illness that has stricken a loved one. Taking care of a parent can be very difficult and stressful. You may feel as if you have to be cheerful all the time because you want to be positive around the sick person. But inside, you may be stressed out and upset because it’s hard work and it hurts to see someone so helpless. When a sick person is in the hospital, you may feel frustrated because his or her well-being seems beyond your control. You may also think about what it would be like if that person died and regret all the things you ever did or said to him or her that weren’t so great. It’s normal to have feelings of guilt and fear. If your parent is sick in a hospital, figuring out what to say is often hard. You may even feel that the person in the bed is different from your parent. Remember that he or she is the same person. The only difference is that he or she is sick. Try to talk the way you would if your parent wasn’t in a hospital. If you usually talked about school, bring in some school work to show your mom or dad. If you both always like to talk about sports, talk about the latest games and team standings. Sometimes other adults will tell you what to say in the hospital. They’ll say, “Smile, don’t let her see you upset. Don’t upset her.” These people mean well. But faking it could make matters worse. Be honest. Tell your parent how you feel. Parents want to know that they still matter to you. Tell your parent that you really need him or her. But try not to make your parent worry about you. When your parent is in the hospital, he or she will worry about how life is at home. Your parent will want to know who is cooking for you, and who’s helping you with your algebra homework. If you are the oldest child at home, much of the work will probably fall to you. You may resent the added chores. You may think that school work is enough to keep you busy. But illness in a family means that everyone has to help. Extra chores and responsibilities may make you feel that life is unfair. These feelings are completely normal. Don’t make things worse by getting angry at yourself for feeling this way. Accept your feelings. Let people close to you know how you feel. Talking about your feelings can make you feel better. Many teens say that visiting their sick parents is very upsetting. They love their parents just as much as anyone else. But they find it very hard to visit in hospitals. It is helpful to understand that there are times when a person must put aside personal feelings so they can do something more important. Sometimes it is important to grant a dying person’s wish or to do things you know will make a sick person happy. Most of the time it is enough to be there and to show support. Finding the strength to put your discomfort aside is not easy. But making sacrifices for those who mean a lot to you is one responsibility of growing up. Terminal Illness Cancer and some other diseases can be terminal. This means that they cause death. When people have an illness that can’t be cured, they may stay in the hospital, go home, or go to live their last days in a hospice. A hospice is a place for people with terminal illnesses. If your parent needs medical attention, he or she must stay in the hospital. You may want your sick parent to come home. But this is not always possible. A terminally ill parent may be able to come home to stay with the family. Even though your parent is dying, being home can make him or her feel better. Being in familiar surroundings, close to the people he or she loves, is comforting. But you will likely have more to do around the house. You may find it difficult to act like you did before your parent got sick. This happens to many people. Don’t worry. What your parent needs most now is to be in a safe, familiar setting and to be near you, no matter how you act. If your parent is in a hospice, you will be allowed to visit. Doctors, nurses, and counselors at a hospice are trained to work with patients who are dying. They try to make the dying person as comfortable as possible. They also work with the families. They are trained to help people deal with their feelings of grief and sadness. No one, including the doctors, knows when a patient is going to die. Not knowing can be painful and confusing. There will be good days, when your sick parent seems to be recovering. In terminal cases the good days will not last. But your company can make the good days even better. You will be able to enjoy them with your parent. Spending time with a terminally ill parent is difficult and scary. But when you look back on that time, you will be glad you did. The Funeral Most cultures have rituals to acknowledge death. In our culture, that ritual is called a funeral. A funeral serves many purposes. For one thing, it can help you to overcome feelings of denial. If you are still running away inside and pretending your parent is still alive, the funeral helps you to accept the truth. A funeral can also be comforting. It gives you a chance to mourn with family and friends who can help you to come to terms with your loss. Being together with other people who knew your mother or father enables you to share your sadness and remember all the good times you had with your parent. What Happens at a Funeral Some funerals are held in churches. Other funerals are held at places called funeral homes. The funeral home director and the staff will help your family with the arrangements. Some funerals are small and quiet. Some funerals are attended by a lot of people, and there are many speakers. At a church funeral, sometimes there is music by a choir or an organist. If your parent was a veteran or an active member of the military, your family may choose to have a military funeral to honor your parent for his or her service to the country. The box that holds the body is usually made of wood and is called the coffin. At the funeral, the coffin may be open or closed. Some people want the coffin open. They say it is a last chance to see the person. Others want the coffin closed. They say they want to remember the person as he or she looked when he or she was alive. If the coffin is open, you will have to decide whether you want to see the body. Some people may try to discourage you. Others may encourage you. There is no right decision. Whether you see the body or not won’t change how much you loved your parent when he or she was alive. Before you decide, think about how you will feel about seeing the body. A religious leader such as a priest or a rabbi usually leads the funeral ceremony. This leader says prayers and words of comfort for the mourners. He or she also talks about your parent’s life. Often, friends and relatives are also given a chance to speak. They might tell stories that show how much your parent was liked and respected. Someone may even tell a joke that shows your parent’s sense of humor. The funeral gives people a chance to express what your parent’s life and friendship meant to them. You may decide that you wish to speak at the funeral. This is a decision you should reach with your living parent. If he or she agrees, then you will have a chance to say a few words. You can express how much your parent meant to you. This speech is called a eulogy. You should write down what you want to say. You might have a short story to tell that shows your parent’s understanding and love. But don’t feel that you must speak at the funeral. You may be too sad to say anything. Your family and friends will understand that this is a painful and difficult time for you. At the funeral, you may cry or you may not. You might feel like being alone or talking with others. You may also be surprised by the sad reactions of other family members and friends at the funeral. You may have never seen your father cry, or your mother break down. Crying is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of grieving. Their behavior may make you uncomfortable or scared. But remember, they are just expressing grief. People grieve differently since there is no single way to experience grief. Don’t feel that you must help your grieving parent or relatives. Attending Your Parent’s Funeral Your living parent may decide that you shouldn’t attend the funeral. She or he may think you are too young. Or he or she may think that the experience will be too painful for you. But if you wish to say good-bye to your parent with the rest of the family and friends, talk it over. Explain that you understand the purpose of a funeral. Say that you will feel left out and upset if you cannot go. After you’ve calmly told your parent about your feelings, plan to attend. Or, you may decide that you don’t want to attend the funeral. If you don’t feel you can handle it, say so. Don’t push yourself. Boys, especially, often get a hard time from the family if they say they don’t want to attend. You have to make people understand how you feel. Attending the funeral isn’t a sign of how much you loved your parent. You may want to say good- bye in your own way. You may want to grieve in private. Hopefully, your family will understand if you don’t want to go to the funeral. After the Funeral Service After the funeral service, the body is usually taken to a cemetery for burial. Going to a cemetery is very hard. It can even be scary. But seeing the coffin put into the ground is another way to see how final the death is. And that memory will help you cope with your loss better in the time to come. Some people are placed in mausoleums, which are buildings where caskets are stored above ground. Spaces called vaults are cut in the walls for the coffins. Some people leave instructions for their families, saying that want to be burned, or cremated. The remaining ashes are given to the family. Some people put the ashes in a vase called an urn and keep the ashes at home. Sometimes the ashes are spread over a place that had special meaning to the dead person. Some people don’t want to be buried. They write wills asking their family to give their body to medicine. Their body’s organs are then used in transplants. A cornea transplant, for example, can give sight to a blind person. Some organs, like the heart or liver, can be taken from a dead person to save the life of another who is sick or dying. People who donate their body to medicine say they do it because they want their last act of life to help others. There are many different ideas about what happens to people after they die. Some believe that each person has a soul that even death can’t destroy. Others believe that dead people continue to live through their children, that the children’s lives are reflections of the lost parent. Many people feel that a dead person remains “alive” in the memories of those who knew him or her. Still other people say they don’t know what happens after death. You may already have your own ideas about what happens after death. The question has no easy answers. You may find that over time you will come up with your own ideas. Moving Beyond Grief Your parent’s death will affect you for a long time. And the process of accepting that your parent is gone is often lengthy and difficult. It is important to give yourself time to grieve. Death is a part of life, but this fact is hard for many people to face. Be patient with yourself. There is no time limit on grieving. Learning to Accept Death As time goes on, the fact that your parent died will slowly sink in. You will get used to your mother or father’s not being there. This is called acceptance. Acceptance is often recognized as the final stage of grieving. It doesn’t mean forgetting about your parent. Acceptance simply means that you are willing to believe your parent is dead. Even after you have accepted your parent’s death, your sadness may not lessen immediately. Your emotional pain won’t automatically go away because of acceptance. It takes time to lessen. And even after you think it has gone, feelings such as anger, sadness, and despair can return without warning. After you have moved on with your life, you may still have bouts of intense sadness. The emotions may be triggered by memories, photographs, experiences, or simply something someone says that reminds you of your deceased parent. These sudden feelings are normal. Acceptance also means realizing that some things are beyond our power to change. This can be a difficult lesson to learn. Almost 700 years ago, St. Francis said, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Remembering this when you feel powerless or hopeless may help. As you grieve, talk with someone about your feelings. A school counselor, an older relative, or a close friend can listen. You might want to talk to a grief counselor, who is specially trained to help those who are grieving. One-on-one counseling or a support group can help you sort out what you are feeling. Sometimes it helps to share your feelings with others who have experienced or are experiencing the same thing. Talking about your feelings helps you look at them realistically. They often don’t seem so gigantic or overwhelming when you share them with someone. Your Life Isn’t Over You have to continue living your life, even after your parent’s death. Keep yourself busy with normal activities. If you’re on a team, continue playing. See friends. Go to school and club meetings. Continue to do the things you did before your parent died. If you don’t think you are ready to resume normal activities yet, try devoting time to a project that honors the memory of your father or mother. Write your feelings and memories in a journal. Draw a picture or make a collage of photographs of your parent. Even the singer Madonna needed to express her feelings about the death of her mother. She wrote the song “Promise to Try” to honor her mother’s memory and to give herself strength to go on with her life. There are many ways to keep your parent’s memory alive. You also may want to concentrate on thinking about your future. You may still be grieving, but your parent would have wanted you to live your life to the fullest. Your parent would have wanted you to lead a happy and healthy life. Think about the wonderful things that lie ahead for you. Your parent will be with you in spirit in the years to come.