Mental Health & Wellbeing Matters: losing a parent

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A few words, in our regular mental health and wellbeing spot, on the loss of a parent, and trying to piece life back together afterwards.

Hello, and welcome to you. This is the bit of the Film Stories site where we chat about things that may be affecting us, or people around us.

It’s just a little weekly piece with a mental health focus. Not everything we write is going to be useful, but hopefully over the course of this series of articles, there’s something we write that might be of use to you or someone you know.

This week, we’re on the topic of grief, and in particular one of the toughest things for the majority of us to go through: losing one of the people we regard as a parent figure. I’m going to use the shorthand parents and parent in this piece, but I do appreciate that it’s a word that can apply to far more than people who are your ‘natural’ parents.

I for one, as many do, dreaded the day I’d lose a parent. Something I never wanted to think about, yet alone try and process. Then, it happened. All in the space of a couple of months in my case, which had the blessing of actually getting to say goodbye, but also having life turned on its head in double quick time.

For me, the worst day wasn’t the day I lost my mum. It was one week earlier, when I saw something she had to go through. It didn’t make the day she died the slightest bit easier.

What followed was absolutely all-consuming grief. It’s hard to describe if you’ve not been through it, and in my case I tried to hit it head on. I cried, I didn’t shy away from it, but god, it hurt like hell. It still does.

But I did learn a couple of things. Everybody’s experience is different, I appreciate that, but there do appear to be constants amongst those I’ve spoken to who’ve been through something similar.

Firstly, that self-care goes out of the window. I think that’s inevitable, and I realised it was important I got back on top of that quickly. Depending on the relationship you have with your family and friends, they may lean on you a lot, and it’s easy to forget yourself, as you try and process something so monumental yourself. But somewhere along the line, you have to get back with the basics: eating, drinking, sleeping, getting fresh air.

Secondly, grieve. Obvious again, but I do think you’re doing yourself damage in the long run if you don’t. Stoicism keeps coming up in these columns as a bit of an enemy to mental health. I think that’s the case here too.

Thirdly, communicate. There is some good that can come out of an awful time if you let it. Bridges can be rebuilt, just as others can be destroyed. It’s an oft-quoted cliché that death puts things in perspective. It’s still important to talk to people around. Perhaps more than ever. Don’t rule out grief counselling either. If it’s an option for you, then it is worth exploring.

Fourthly, if you can, accept every invitation as soon as you’re able. You may need or want to lock yourself a way, and I did a bit of that. But don’t hide for long.

Take the time you need, be kind to yourself, and lean into whatever support network you have.

Please, anyone else, add your own tips. It’s such a horrible thing to go through, and if you are reading this, I’m very sorry for your loss x

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