Hello everybody, welcome to episode 79 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Very happy to have you here today, though we’ll be talking about some very difficult times for a woman who sent in a very strong question about her father’s impending passing. Grief is not simple, it’s not very predictable. But today we’re going to do our best to help this woman out in what will be some tough times ahead. Here’s what she had to say…
QUESTION: “My father has a few months of life left after a very quick but traumatic battle with stage 4 lung and bone cancer. As someone who has never grieved for a human before…how can I prepare? Is there even a way to prepare for such grief? All nursing homes are locked down here so I can't see him and may not see him before he passes.”
The Beginning of Grieving
Ok. Such an incredibly tough time for you right now needless to say. I think I speak for all of us both on the production team as well as all of our listeners when I say that we are with you and we’re very sorry for what you’re going through right now. But this is why we’re all here, everyone. We’re here to offer help and support to others when they need it and we’re here to remind those who are struggling that they aren’t alone.
Now needless to say, there is the checklist you can start going over right now. There are some obvious things like preparing arrangements, making sure your father has his will in order, thinking about how you want to approach this with the kids if there are any. There are some less obvious things you can do as well like maybe studying up on the stages of grief to help you prepare.
But the weird thing about that preparation, to me, is that the grieving has already started.
When we have an inkling that a loved one is going to die and that it’s unavoidable, I think the grieving process really starts in that moment. You’re probably further along the journey than you think and are well on your way to making peace with this tragedy.
For those who lose someone suddenly, grief hits them unexpectedly and they wish nothing more than to have what you have now: an opportunity to talk with their loved one. It’s terrible that you can’t see your father right now, but it is still a gift that you have the chance to communicate with him when you know there won’t be many chances left.
Using Time Wisely
Use your remaining conversations with him meaningfully. Get closure if there’s closure to be had. Laugh with him if there’s laughter to be had. Once he is gone, you’ll be wishing you had one last shot. This is your shot right now. So while I understand you want to prepare for life after he’s gone, which I’ll talk about now, try not to be anything but fully present and appreciative of the opportunity you’ve been given right now, the opportunity to still live with him even if it’s just through the phone.
Once he does go, however (and it’s still true now, but it probably seems less obvious), it’s going to be important to recognize how wide this grief spreads. It might sound strange, but this is about more than your Dad. And once your Dad has passed, the massive identity change for you and his other loved ones will start to present itself. Reacting positively in the wake of this change is going to help you and others immensely in this grieving process.
Everyone Experiences Grief Differently
Hopefully your family and friends have good relationships and there is not much conflict you’ll have to endure, but whether or not that’s the case, it’s important to remember that everyone is grieving and that everyone experiences grief differently.
What that means is that for anyone to handle the grieving process as gracefully as possible, it’s necessary to not judge ourselves or others for how they cope. You’ve obviously thought about how it’s going to go after your father has passed, but I’d be very careful with those preconceptions and be as open as possible with the feelings you experience and the feelings that others experience.
If your uncle has to leave the funeral early, he can leave. If your brother can’t muster the courage to give a eulogy, let him not give one. If you don’t cry at all or as much as you thought, that’s fine. These are not selfish things. In sensitive times such as this, we’re often tempted to somehow stand up for someone (your father in this case), and stand up for whatever injustices we may think are being done unto them. Unless the circumstances are very extreme, this should really be avoided. Creating conflict and telling people how to grieve is that last thing anyone needs right now, so be sure to be understanding and patient with any irregular grieving patterns displayed by yourself or those close to your Dad.
Treat Others with Respect
By treating all of the bereaved with respect, you ban together and you don’t go through this alone. There’s no reason to not find support in this difficult time. Support can come from being near other loved ones who are suffering from your father’s loss, it can come from support groups, grief counselors, friends who have gone through something similar and more.
It may be hard to find motivation and you may be tempted to shut down for a while. If so…that’s ok. Pay attention to that. But if not immediately, the time will come when you realize the immense value there is in being around supportive people. You’ll probably even value their lives more in the wake of your father’s passing.
Take Care of Yourself
Now individually, with the loss of a loved one tends to come a lot of self-questioning and in ways, the loss of ourselves. You might question your choices and the path you’ve gone down. You might question your future a little bit, as you’re also suffering the loss of who you thought you’d be with your father and the experiences you would’ve had together had he lived longer. These thoughts can be difficult and distracting. They’re also very normal. To peacefully coexist with this kind of thinking while it’s there, be sure to remember and honor the things that make you you.
What I’m saying is to keep taking care of yourself as best you can amidst the meetings with lawyers, the depression, the consoling of family members, etc. Try to make time to do the things you love. Staying mentally and physically healthy during this time is not selfish, it’s more important than ever. You’re going to need as much strength as possible during what will likely be one of the hardest phases of your life.
Emphasis on “phases,” because it WILL pass.
So if you have the energy to go to a party, don’t shame yourself; it’s ok to go. If you’re having a hard time sleeping at night and you need to pass on a family gathering so you can catch up on rest, then do it.
Grieving is a tough process, and adding restrictions to it, whether it be on your own grief or the grief of others, will only prolong it and cause unnecessary damage.
All right everyone, that brings this episode to a close. Sensitive subject matter today, but I hope you all will walk away for a new appreciation of how precious life is and the many ups and downs that come with it.
For the woman who sent this in, thank you a hundred times, thank you, for being vulnerable and letting us be there for you. It’s our pleasure and we hope you know now more than ever that you aren’t alone.
Everyone else out there, keep those questions coming. You can email us concerns you’d like us to answer on the show. Our email address is advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Find us there and we’ll do what we can for you. Thanks again for being here, I will look forward to talking to you next time. Take care of yourselves, and until the next episode.