Understanding Your Parent’s Grief
A grieving person can’t function at 100 percent, so the initial months after your parent’s death aren’t a time for your parent to start new projects or make major decisions. Their normal functions will return, even though you may find them doing abnormal things. Such behavior isn’t surprising; they are grieving. Signs of grief include:
- Forgetfulness. Your usually organized parent may miss appointments, lock their keys in the car or mail unsigned checks with his bills. You can help them by being patient, reminding them that these are symptoms of grief and suggesting that he write down reminders to themselves.
- Disorganization. Your parent may find that it takes a lot longer to finish everyday tasks. He may not manage their time well — leaving one project unfinished and going on to something else. You might help them plan a schedule, or offer to work with them. Spending time together and focusing on something other than the grief can bring you closer together, as well as ease their sense of isolation and loneliness.
- Inability to concentrate. During the early stages of bereavement, the mind wanders. Your newly widowed parent may find it impossible to stay focused. It may be difficult for them to read a book or even to stick with a TV show. Reading a newspaper may take longer than before, and retaining information may be difficult. You can help by highlighting important points, or even reading aloud with them. Bereaved people can be dangerous on the highways due to their inability to concentrate. They’re also susceptible to unexpected crying spells. Warn your parent to be extra careful when driving or handling potentially dangerous equipment, such as a lawn mower or even a garbage disposal in a sink.
- Lack of interest or motivation. Your parent might say: “Why work so hard? We just die anyway” or “I was doing all this for your mother/father, and now they’re dead. Why bother?” Let them express their feelings, and offer them love and support. But if you worry that he might actually hurt themselves, or if you notice them dealing with their sadness by using alcohol or drugs, talk to their physician immediately.