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Losing a parent means a loss of childhood, of innocence, and a part of oneself. “You are now forced to cope with the loss of parental love and attention that was given uniquely to you, and that you depended on, possibly even took for granted.” says Carol Staudacher, grief educator, consultant, and author of the book “Beyond Grief.” As young people, we depend on our parents. They typically provide us with information about the world and moral support. The circumstances of a parent’s death affect the intensity of a person’s grief.
These factors include the current and past relationship with the parent, and the individual’s age at the time of the parent’s death. When a parent dies, whether through old age, unexpectedly, or from disease, children are left with a range of emotions ranging from emptiness and loneliness to guilt and anger.
Even when a person is estranged from the parent that passes away, losing that parent brings up powerful emotions.
If a person lacked a bond with the parent, or in cases where abuse or abandonment was involved, death can be a time for closure.
Since people understand death differently at different stages of development, the emotional support they receive needs to reflect the child’s ability to process the information.
Children almost always exhibit some type of regression behavior when a parent dies.
The parent’s death will likely bring up all of the unpleasant emotions one experienced during the abuse.
Children need age-appropriate support—that is, counseling and support that correlates to the way a person processes death at a certain age—to deal with the effects of the loss of a parent and the ensuing grief.
Renewed grief on these occasions is known as an anniversary reaction, and while these reactions can re-occur for years, they are most common for the first three to 24 months.
These types of anniversary reactions are even more pronounced in children.
Ideally, when parents live their lives through to old age, an individual has time to prepare for the loss.
Other times, parents may die unexpectedly, or too early in life, leaving behind children and other loved ones.