- In her last phone conversation with her dying father, Marcie heard him say through labored breathing that he “was very disappointed” in her.
- Brenda has always been ambivalent about her relationship with mother – even feeling strong dislike for her at times – yet now it falls to Brenda to see her mother through a terminal lung cancer diagnosis.
- John was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by his mother as a child, yet now he sits at her funeral service listening to his older sister extol their mother’s saintly virtues.
Dealing with the death of a parent is never easy, but for these three people, processing the mixed emotions and conflicting perceptions is doubly hard. When a parent’s death is the punctuation point on a lifelong abusive or distant relationship, the so-called five stages of grief can feel more like the nine circles of hell.
- At the cemetery, friends and family are trying to console John with: "I'm sorry for your loss" – but he’s silently shouting “Good riddance!"
- As Brenda cares for her mother as she goes through chemo and radiation, living under her mother’s roof for the first time in 40 years, she’s extremely conflicted. She resents the huge responsibility and even hopes her mother will pass quickly. This sends Brenda spiraling down into guilt – “How can you possibly be looking forward to your mother’s death? What kind of selfish narcissist are you, anyway?”
- When Marcie’s father finally passed away, her predominant emotion was one of relief. She felt a newfound sense of freedom, blissfully released from something that had felt subliminally oppressive all of her life. “Liberated at last!” was her overriding sensation.
If you identify with any of these three true-life scenarios, you are certainly not as alone (and despicable) as you might feel. If you experienced a distant, dysfunctional, or abusive relationship with your parent, death often brings up painful memories, unresolved anger, guilt, longing, sadness, confusion, regret, relief -- and shame over that relief. Sometimes all in the same hour!
Working through the cyclone of emotions
The first thing to do is to turn off those self-abusive voices in your head guilting and shaming you for whatever you might be feeling. This is the time to learn how to be your own best advocate – your own nurturing parent, if you prefer – and carve your unique path to reconciliation and closure.
You might need a confrontational, anger-venting method, a creatively expressive technique, a forgiveness ceremony, or all of the above and more as you trudge your way through. Expect your healing to be fluid and ever-changing. Allow your process to be uniquely yours and perfect just the way it shows up for you. There truly is no right way to do this, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
“Closure” doesn’t mean shoving your pain and confusion into a box with a neatly tied bow on top. True closure means coming to a place of acceptance, wholeness, and better-than-okayness despite what you’ve been through. Some people even reach an elevated spiritual perspective that allows them to view the whole Earth drama as being exactly what they needed to evolve. Others reach a deep appreciation for themselves for choosing the exact parents they were born to.
Here are some suggestions we’ve found to be of invaluable help when you’re dealing with the death of a difficult parent and trying to sort through unfinished business and ambivalent feelings.
1) Journal your feelings
Pouring out your pain and regrets, or your rage and fury, into a private journal using a pen can be both cathartic and revealing. Don’t hold back, don’t censor, and don’t judge. Let the writing take you where it wants to go. Capture every dark thought and ugly feeling and put it down in black and white. This helps take a lot of the energetic charge off of your strong emotions, allows you to experience release, and often gifts you with crystal clarity during “ah ha!” moments of realization.
If writing is challenging for you, make an audiotape. Speak or shout your feelings into a microphone. If you’re musical, write a song. Paint, collage, mosaic, sew, create pottery, or plant a flower garden with the sole intention of channeling your feelings into something beautiful.
2) Practice automatic writing
Try to initiate a soul-to-soul correspondence with your deceased parent. If you’ve always believed the veils between worlds are thin, this is a great time to try your “hand” at automatic writing. Or typing. Use your computer if you prefer. Say what you need to say, and then ask questions. Leave space and silence for messages to come through. Intend to receive a response.
3) Begin a blog
Sometimes it helps to have an audience to witness your words and emotions, even if you can’t see their faces. No need to put your name on it if you don’t care to. Write anonymously. Share your wounds, your rage, and your wit. Invite readers to comment and share their own parental death stories. You might even find yourself at the center of a thriving community of like-minded others.
4) Talk to people
If you feel too vulnerable sharing your personal material with friends and family, seek out community resources. Mental health associations, hospice facilities, and suicide hotlines all have easy access to grief counselors. Be candid about your ambivalence over losing your parent. Your situation is complicated, and you need someone totally impartial and experienced to witness your process without passing judgment.
5) Create meaningful ritual
You can use a ritual to communicate something to your parent, or as a way to signify something important to your subconscious. Perhaps it’s how you totally let go of the difficult emotions, or say a final “goodbye”.
Create a sacred, safe space that has deep meaning for you. If you need to channel energy through sound and movement -- drum, dance, sing, stomp, chant, or scream. Burn a letter, release a balloon, bury a photo in the earth, or hike to the highest mountain peak in your area to signify your personal resurrection.
6) Consult divination tools
Seek answers from rune stones, tealeaves, or a crystal ball. All of these tools help you access your own inner Guidance. Avail yourself of the support of a professional psychic reader who’s well versed in these areas. Receiving help from a compassionate, gifted intuitive reader can be just the nurturing balm you need to soothe your soul and restore you to balance.
7) Seek oracular wisdom
Treat yourself to a tarot reading with a professional, or create a powerful ritual using your own deck. Choose a multi-card spread that reflects past influences, present forces, and future potentialities. Strive to access a broad overview on your situation.
See if you can get to a place of impartiality and higher awareness about the karmic forces at work in your difficult relationship. Try to ascertain what gifts your parental contract has given you in this lifetime, and get a sense of what new adventures might be just around the corner for you. If you entrust a truly gifted intuitive Tarot reader with this important task, you will be delighted by the numinous power these cards of revelation carry.
8) Consult a psychic medium
Many psychic mediums specialize in communicating with deceased spirits, helping them to interact with those still left in the physical world. We know that death is not the end of the spirit, and oftentimes a parent will say the very things you’ve longed to hear all of your life. It’s a great way to achieve further understanding and re-open a dialogue, dealing with unfinished business and gaining clarity.
Lastly, when seeking “closure”, you’ll probably find yourself dancing around the “f” word. “Forgiveness”. Yes, you might need to forgive your parent at some point. But that is not the same thing as absolving them of guilt or condoning anything hurtful. Forgiveness is actually you saying that you’re putting down the pain now -- for you. You’re choosing to set yourself free so that you can continue to actualize your Divine Purpose and Soul Plan for this very precious lifetime.