When We Must Say Goodbye to a Dying Parent
Accepting Inevitable Loss
Death has managed to follow me my whole life. I have lost dozens of loved ones throughout my life in all kinds of ways. Accidents, suicides, murders, and terminal illnesses.
These losses have sculpted my ability to handle grief and loss over time.
It has piqued my interest in getting to the root of emotional pain and sorrow.
By allowing myself to experience it and understand it, instead of running from it, I can cope better.
In my travels, I have said goodbye to many people for what I knew to be the last time. This is usually because I knew that I was unlikely to cross paths with them again, due to geographical differences.
I have moved around my entire life, so I cultivated relationships over and over, knowing that the end of our physical time together was just around the corner.
I have accepted this as a part of the natural ebb and flow of life.
But Now I Face a New Challenge
Last week I returned to my childhood home in California to spend time with my dying father.
I learned that no matter how much we might think we are ready for something, we never know how we will truly handle a situation until it finally occurs.
My childhood home has been a sanctuary for me throughout my life. While everything else in my life was constantly changing, I knew I could always go back and see my parents, and siblings, sleep in my old room and swim in our pool.
But now, with my father passing away, we all must learn to let go. The house will be sold, and we will all go our separate ways.
The transition is yet another element in this ever-changing physical world.
What This is Teaching Me
The more we identify with situations, the more our suffering increases.
But if we can approach a situation as a witness, we enhance our strength.
When death takes someone from us suddenly, we go through our stages of grief and try to move on. But watching a loved one suffer slowly and fade away is traumatizing in itself. Watching. Waiting. Knowing the end will come soon, but not knowing exactly when.
There is a duality of not wanting to lose our loved one, but also not wanting them to continue to suffer.
All we can do in this situation is remember that this too shall pass. Just like everything else in life.
All of the feelings of fear and worry will disappear when my dad finally takes his last breath because then I know he will ultimately be okay.
He is moving on to his next adventure, and it is only sad for those of us left behind who choose to mourn his transition.
Dealing With the Emotions
On a final note, it is so important to accept our emotional reactions. After holding my little sister while we cried for our dying parent together in our bathroom, I realized the extremely negative impact that running from our pain can have on us.
Only when we allow ourselves to really feel and experience that pain and then accept it for what it is, can we begin to heal and move forward.