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Coping with the Death of a Parent

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Parents are a huge part of our lives, which makes coping with a death of a parent something we hope no teen will ever have to deal with. However, some teens sadly do lose one or both parents. Death of a loved one can cause a number of emotions to flow through each of us, and sometimes even make us question our faith.

First, Your Grief is Yours, and It's Okay

Losing a mother or father is huge. It's not something anyone should just expect you to get over easily. These are people who loved us and raised us. They are the ones who know us best. They've seen us through the best and worst of our lives so far. So it's okay to grieve the loss of a parent. It's okay to not instantly get over it. Own your grief, because it's perfectly normal, and don't let anyone make you feel like it's not.

You are Not Alone

There are others who have gone through what you're going through, and many of those people are around to help. Sometimes we can feel very alone in our own grief, and we end up turning inward. However, God knows your hurt, and He will often place people in your life to get you through the tough times. From support groups to supportive friends and family, God reminds us that we are not alone.

How Do I Know My Feelings are "Normal?"

There is a common belief that people go through five stages of grief. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross tells us that we go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It sounds very technical, but really it's a way of understanding our grief, and it's very real. By working our way through these stages we learn to live with our loss. The stages don't always go in order, and we don't always go through a stage just once. This is why there is very little "normal" when it comes to coping with losing a parent. Yet, understanding these stages can help us understand that our feelings are valid.

Denial is usually the first stage of grief, but not always. It is, however, the one that usually gets us through the shock of a parent's death. It is the numbness we feel. It is the questioning of the chaos that surrounds us. Sometimes we then move into an angry stage. This stage is one that truly tests our relationship with God, because it is often the stage in which we blame Him for our parent's death. Why couldn't He stop it? Why couldn't He protect us? We may not even lash out at God, but also those around us who love us.

At some point during our grief we also get caught up in bargaining. We begin asking the "What if?" and "If only?" questions. We feel a little guilty that we didn't do more. We bargain with God to take away the pain. Bargaining and anger often then lead into depression. Too often when we talk about depression we see it as the kind that requires medication like the commercials on TV talk about or the kind that leads to suicide. Not all depression is debilitating or unnatural. Depression is a sadness, and it is normal to feel depressed after losing a parent. If your depression leads to a long-term lack of ability to function or suicidal thoughts, then you may want to seek professional help, but most people eventually move out of depression into a feeling of acceptance.

Now acceptance is a very misunderstood part of the grief process. Too often we think of it as being okay with the loss of a parent. It's not. Most of us are never okay with losing someone we love, but there is a point we realize that the person is never coming back and we need to move forward in our lives. We accept that the person is gone and we must go on living. Learning acceptance is, in itself, a process, because sometimes we feel guilty that we're moving on. Yet eventually we realize that life will never be the same again, but it is still a life that we can fill with joy and love. Most likely something our parents would want for us, even if they are not here with us.

What Happens Next?

For teens, coping with losing a parent can bring on a feeling of great instability. It is important to take life one day at a time, move forward one step at a time. Don't let anyone rush you through your own grief process, because it's your process to work through. If you feel alone, turn to prayer and find a support group. Let others help hold you up when you feel like you're falling. One day you'll move forward. You'll miss your parent every day, but one day it will get easier.

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