How to Accept the Death of a Parent and Cope

Medically reviewed by: Dr Ilbey Ucar – PhD (Psychology)
Last updated date : January 16, 2022

At some point in their childhood, children are bound to find out about the concept of death. For starters, some parents have to have a conversation on this serious topic following constant questions posed by their children, such as “How come we don’t visit grandma anymore?” Unfortunately, some children find out about death from a shocking experience of the loss of a family pet, a parent, or a loved one. How to accept the death of a parent can be a concern to many. Perhaps you need to know how to accept your parent’s death, or you are in search of a gentle way of explaining it to another person. This article will elaborate on how to cope when someone dies, especially how to accept the death of a beloved parent.

sad lady staring into the distance at the beach, calm sea, children playing in distance

“Learnt a lot from this course” Sally

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Chapter 1:

Bond between Children and Parents

From birth, children try to imitate their parents. Little ones start laughing at the sound of their mother’s, father’s voices. Children giggle in laughter when their mother or father reaches out to grab them. The bond between a child and parents is an amazing thing to come across. In fact, there is literally nothing that parents would not give up to see their children smile.

Parenting is the most rewarding job we will ever have, yet it comes with its own set of obstacles. Modern family life may be stressful, and dealing with the numerous pressures that families face is not always easy. In the end, parents want the best for their children, and a healthy parent-child bond can help children achieve better outcomes. The parent-child relationship promotes the child’s physical, emotional, and social growth. It’s a special link that every child and parent will cherish. The child’s personality, life choices, and overall behaviour are all shaped by this bond. It can also impact their social, physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

A child is defined in many ways. The key point to consider is that a child is a person who is still learning the ways of the world. They need constant attention. Children expect adults’ help in choosing between what is right and what is wrong.

“I wish you knew how much of you there is in everything I do. It can be the smallest thing… trivial…. mundane… But you’re there …. under the surface of it somewhere.

I wish you knew how I carry you with me always….

Everywhere I go.”

-Ranata Suzuki

Chapter 2:

Teens & Preteens Coping with the Death of a Parent

Reactions of people at the news of a loved one’s loss differ from one another. However, the majority of children may find it unbearable. In hindsight, they might feel empty, like their whole world crumbled before them. In other words, it is a lot to take in, especially for a child. Therefore, it is crucial to know how they are taking the news.

As a parent or caregiver, the most important thing is to tackle the problem with compassion, honesty, and understanding. While you do not want to go into too much information, it is crucial to respond to your child’s questions.

Most of the time, children will cease thinking about and worrying about death. Meanwhile, there are some practical steps you may take to assist them in coping with and overcoming their fear.

How to Know If a Child Is Grieving?
When an adult is grieving, it seems to be there at all times, even when they are happy. It is mostly visible. On the other hand, children may appear fine one minute and then become very disturbed the next, as their brains are unable to cope with melancholy for lengthy periods of time.

In the early stages of grief, it is normal for children to experience a bit of denial that their loved one is gone. They may continue to hope the deceased person to appear at any time. For a while, denial is appropriate, but the reality of the loss should begin to sink in over time, especially with older children. Then only we can hope that he or she’d try to accept the death of the parent. Here are some other things you might notice when your child has lost a pet, teacher, neighbour, or family member. Identifying these patterns of behaviour might help to cope when someone dies.

Difficulty in Concentrating
Children may not focus on a specific activity, make decisions, or solve difficulties. They can have trouble focusing and may appear disoriented or disoriented. Same as with studies, you may find it challenging to get the child to concentrate on a certain thing. Therefore, you have to stay calm and try to get their attention.
Regression in Development
Toddlers and preschoolers may cease sleeping through the night or begin wetting the bed. In the meanwhile, a little child may resume crawling, baby talk, or the need to feed on a bottle. You, as the career, need to understand that it is perfectly normal for children to have regression in development. It is crucial that you treat them with care.
Both children and teenagers may begin to be concerned about everything, but especially about the deaths of others in their lives. They will require daily assurance that they will be safe and well-cared for. Preschoolers have a strong need for this.
Sleeping Problems
Children who are grieving may prefer to sleep with their parents or other family members, or they may have nightmares or dreams about the person who has died. Older children, on the other hand, may suffer from insomnia or be terrified of death, which prevents them from sleeping. It can be normal to feel like it’s impossible to sleep. Try to distract them from putting on their favourite cartoon or anime series, or even a movie. The key is not letting them feel like it’s out of pity and trying to cheer them up. It is important to you, as the carer can stay with them throughout the movie or the cartoon to watch them laugh. Dealing with it will help you cope when someone dies.
Issues with Studies
Following a loss, children may become more attached. To grab your attention, they may lament over going to go to school or beg for help with chores they have already mastered. Even if they aren’t aware of the loss, infants and toddlers can sense their caregivers’ grief and respond by becoming irritable, crying more, and needing to be carried.
Feelings of Abandonment
A child might feel like the person who died, as well as others, may have betrayed, rejected, or abandoned them. As a result, they may require assurance that you will be there for them. As children, at first, it won’t be likely for them to take the news lightly. They might not accept the death of their parents, might not cope when he/ she dies, and instead blame them for abandoning them. Be sure to keep your promises, especially during this period, so these fears about abandonment will not go on.
Behavioral Reactions
Grief can cause children of all ages to exhibit previously undiagnosed behavioural difficulties. They can start behaving badly at school or talking back at home. Teenagers may also be tempted to risky activities like drinking or using drugs.
Guilty Conscience
It’s typical for children to blame themselves instead of coping when someone close to them dies. Children may believe it is their fault because they previously wanted the person to “go away,” or they may believe their activities were responsible for their death. Suppose a parent is not on board with his/her kids wanting ice cream, and the kids hate their parents for that. As trivial as it may seem, they will not cope if the parent dies just after this little fight because children might feel like they did it. They may feel like they have a superpower that nobody might understand, which made their parents disappear.
Changes in Play
Young children may begin to talk about death in their pretend play as they get older. Their stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures may die and resurrect. If you notice this behaviour in your child, understand that he or she is grieving a loss.

Refocus their attention after a brief chat about something current. Propose playing a game, going on a walk, or reading a book together after soothing them and addressing their questions. The goal is to listen to your child but then distract their attention away from the dread—especially if it is severe or has compulsive qualities.

Ptsd among Children
PTSD in children occurs before the age of 18. This condition can begin after a child has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. A kid with PTSD may have recurring thoughts or memories about the horrific experience, resulting in insomnia and a distant mood.

A traumatic event involves “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.” Before the age of 18, PTSD in children can happen. For a child, it could be learning that a traumatic event happened to a parent or caregiver. PTSD symptoms can arise after a child experiences or witnesses a trauma that happened to them or someone they are close to. Therefore, it would be hard to cope when a parent dies.

Common events that can trigger PTSD in children include:

  • Becoming the victim of an animal attack
  • Natural disaster, war, or terrorist attack
  • Serious illness
  • Death of someone close to you, such as a family member or a friend
  • Witnessing a murder or a violent event
  • Getting mugged at gunpoint
  • Car accident

Chapter 3:

How to Help a Child Move On

Losing someone you love isn’t something to be taken gently. The members of the family or the friends of the deceased are not expected to snap out of it and start moving on at a moment’s notice after coping with the death of the parent. Therefore, It’s difficult for an adult to cope with their loss while also dealing with a child’s pain. It is, nonetheless, vital to aid kids in developing coping skills. Here are some strategies for helping your child cope when someone dies.
Get Yourself Together
With your husband or wife gone, maybe now you have become the single parent and the family’s sole breadwinner. Your child will look to you for guidance on how to handle their emotions, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Openly express your concerns, but be careful not to overburden your child with adult issues. To help you care for your feelings, you might choose to speak with a grief counsellor or attend a grief support group.
Be Sincere
Implying kids of the situation using words such as “we lost him” or “she’s sleeping now” can confuse and frighten a child. Children must realize that the individual is not simply sleeping or missing, but that their body has stopped working and they will not come back. Of course, graphic details aren’t necessary, but you should make an effort, to be honest. Give them an explanation that is simple, direct, child-centred, and age-appropriate. She was taught what happens to a person’s body once they die (“It stops working”). It will ease their way to cope when someone dies.
Have a Word with Caregivers
A child’s grief is somewhat different from an adult’s. Perhaps, a child would want to continue going to school just after the death of a parent. This is related to their process of understanding what just happened. So, it’s possible that you won’t be able to keep the children at home for a long period of time. In another perspective, letting them continue on with their habits and daily routine can distract them from grief. Therefore, teachers, in particular, should be informed of the family’s situation. They need to know details about the loss, whom to contact if they notice indications of grief, and how to help the child if they’re experiencing an emotional outburst. Ask their help to get the child to accept the death of his/ her parents. Because they, as close associates, can get them to cope when someone dies.
Have Patience
A child’s grief cycles in and out, and to an adult, it can feel like they’re dwelling on the loss after you thought they had moved on. It’s crucial to be patient and respond similarly with comfort and truth every time they return to a moment of grief.

Note that a reminder, such as the anniversary of the death, could reawaken the grieving process.

Accept the Loss
Do you think letting them attend the funeral would help the child cope when someone dies? As a caregiver or a surviving parent, you can decide whether it is good if the child attends the funeral. Sometimes it can deliver the closure that they were looking for. But don’t force your kid to go if he or she is afraid. You can find various ways to express your sorrow over your child’s death. Write a message to your loved one, organize a private memorial service, light a candle, or start a scrapbook at home.
Read Books- Watch Movies about Grief
People watch movies for entertainment. What is more, movies can be inspirational. If you are dealing with a tough time in your life, watching some inspirational movies can boost your confidence. Your child may benefit from reading stories about loss, death, and grief. Be prepared to answer questions about what happens to people when they die. And if you don’t know the answer, it’s excellent to say you aren’t sure.

A helpful book as to how someone could cope when someone dies or a plot of a movie where a person gradually gets over the loss of his/ her parents could be helpful in your battle at hand. I recently read a book called “The elusive Language of Ducks”, a novel by Judith White. It narrates a story of a daughter who tries to cope when her mother dies. The story begins as she still grieves over the death of a parent and goes on to say how they gradually accept the death of her parents.

Chapter 4:

Don’t Adults Grieve over Parents’ Death

You may be 45 years old, with a doctorate from an eminent university, but you are still a child in your mother’s or father’s eyes. You are always your parents’ child, regardless of your age. Parents are a reference point – one of the ways we determine our sense of self and our place in the world – whether your relationship with them was close or strained. The answer to the question is, irrespective of age, anyone can miss their parents. Similarly, it is possible for anyone to feel like they cannot deal with the departing of their beloved parents. Some cannot accept the death of their parents without help from other loved ones.

A parent’s death can be a terrible and life-changing event. This is true for adults as well as children and teenagers. On the other hand, adults are expected to cope, go on with their life, and take things in stride.

The reality can much differ from what we expect. Unlike a child dealing with the death of a parent, you have much pressure as an adult. You have to deal with the grief, work-life, family life, and many other facets of your life at the same time.

Changed Relationships
The sense of loss after the death of a parent may also cause dire changes in your relationship with other family members. You may feel a stronger sense of obligation to care for surviving parents, which can be tough to manage as you deal with your own loss. This can be a very stressful and emotional situation.

The death of a parent may force you to revisit the past while dealing with the present. Family members may also feel drawn in different directions because everyone had a unique bond with the deceased. Expect squabbles and disagreements within the family. Siblings may also discover that the loss of a parent rekindles old feelings of resentment and competition from their youth. These differences and tensions can create problems and lead to disagreements over wills, property, and personal property. These would make it harder to accept the death of the parent.

Balancing Work While Grieving
Leaving for work after the loss of one’s parent is the initial signal of he/ she getting ready to move on. It can not be easy. When a loved one passes away, it can be tough to imagine having to return to work once your bereavement leave is up. You might be nervous about telling your coworkers about your loss. You are afraid that you will remember the trauma that you recently went through and won’t be able to deal with your colleagues.

Having an understanding boss who would get your emotional breakdown can be beneficial here. If he or she can empathize with your situation, they would probably tell you to take some extra time off. But chances are you might have to balance the two.

1. Avoid Outbursts of Feelings
Failure to control your sentiments and emotions at work may result in an uncomfortable and difficult work atmosphere for others. When grieving, you don’t have to conceal your emotions; instead, try to accept and move through them until you’re allowed to explore them away from work fully. When you arrive at work, your primary goal should be to complete your allocated tasks as efficiently as possible. It can be beneficial to be able to suppress your emotions at work as well as to accept the death of your parents.
2. Get Your Story Straight
How can getting your story straight can help you cope when someone dies? Tell everyone the same details of the loss and how it happened. Once you get used to the same details explaining over and over, you tend to become familiar and less emotional. Otherwise, it will be painful to bring out extra details.

Knowing what to say when someone inquires about your loss will help you cope with inquiries from coworkers more effectively. Your employees will most likely want to know what happened and how you’re feeling. Having a few canned responses on hand will save you from having to fumble for words at this emotionally tough moment.

It’s crucial to remember that you’re under no duty to tell others about your experience. You have complete control over what you say and to whom you say it. The following are some possible responses that allow you to accept the death of a parent:

  • “He/she lived a full life. Of course, I am sad, but I will deal with it somehow or the other.”
  • “Thank you for your concern. My ( father) passed away last week. I’m still trying to accept and cope with my loss.”
  • “I am really grateful for your words of sympathy. It will take some time for me to deal with this loss.”
  • “I lost my (Mother) a few days ago. It was very sudden and unexpected. I’ll need some time to process this tremendous loss.”
  • “Yes, it is so hard for me. I try my best to cope with it though. Please excuse me if I seem a bit distant.”
3. Be Brave to Ask For Help
Knowing how to ask for help might help you save a lot of tension, anxiety, and pressure in the future. If you think you’re not performing at your best and your work is suffering, as a result, get the support of your coworkers.

There may be certain areas where you are falling behind and seek help. Don’t wait until a large project is due to ask for assistance. This will not only make you seem bad, but it will also make them look awful because they “assisted” you in missing your deadline or delivering a subpar product.

4. Show Your Grief Openly
The way people cope when someone dies is different from each other. Therefore some may be more affected by their grief than others. If your loss is making it impossible for you to do a decent job at work, speak with your boss about your concerns. Not everyone will sympathize with your grief. Avoid going into your appointment with the idea of being given mercy or a second opportunity.
5. Acknowledge Words of Sympathy and Condolences
When you return to work after your bereavement leave, you should assume that your coworkers would have expressed their sympathies and condolences to you. Regardless of how long it takes you to get back to work, be sure to thank your coworkers for their sympathies. Tell them their condolences helped you accept the death of your parent. There is really no need to send formal thank you cards. A simple yet heartfelt “thank you” for your sympathies and condolences should do the trick.
6. Request for Additional Time Off
Depending on your company’s policy, taking more time off to process your sorrow more appropriately before returning to work may be suitable. If you can’t take the extra time off, you’ll have to find alternative ways to balance your duties while you’re grieving.

Consider isolating yourself from people as much as possible for the next several days so you can concentrate on your work rather than explaining your absence at work.

7. Don’t Take On Too Much Work
While grieving your loss, master the art of balancing the amount of work you can handle. After taking an extended bereavement vacation, you may have a strong desire to return to work. Remind yourself that you’re still mourning and that you’ll likely have bursts of vitality followed by periods of depression.
8. Double-Check Your Work
It’s easy to overlook vital elements in your work while you try to cope when someone dies. You will become forgetful and absent-minded as a result of your grief. It’s a good idea to double-check everything before presenting it for review, just in case you overlooked something important.

If necessary, have a trusted colleague take a second look at your work to see if they can spot any errors or omissions.

9. Promise a Better Performance
The most important point is that you admit the low performance due to the hard time you go through and promise a better performance when the dust settles. Apologize and make a promise to do better from now on. You might be able to get a second evaluation in a few days or weeks to counteract the bad feedback from the first.

Speak with your boss about how you can enhance your job performance to have a higher chance of receiving a positive performance review the next time around.

Chapter 5:

A Word of Farewell

Death is part of being human. Despite that, it is hard to cope when someone we love dies. It’s harder to accept the death of a parent. Some people seek help from the religion they believe in. Some, devastated at the loss, seek emotional comfort from friends or support groups. We all cope in different ways and our suggestions above and meant as a guide. Not all of them will be applicable to you.

Yes, death is hard, loss is painful but there is something very human about your experience. Despite how alone you might feel soon after a loss, there is something very human and a chance to rebuild a sense of belonging and community after a loss.

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount