20 Truths About Grieving The Loss Of A Parent In College

Flickr/Cincono
Flickr/Cincono

1. If you’re one of the few that’s lost a parent so early in life, then you have gone through something that 99 percent of people your age haven’t gone through.
And even though that is still difficult to fathom, it doesn’t make it any less true.

2. Just because you might not be grieving intensely as you were right after the loss, doesn’t mean that the days get any easier.
If anything, it can be harder with each passing day.

3. You’re never going to see the person again (at least physically on this plane).
It’s a ghastly thought. It might even make your head explode when you try and wrap your head around it. It’s okay to feel that way. It’s normal.

4. People will become oblivious to your pain after a certain amount of time.
As awful as it might be, it’s true. Besides family or best friends, everybody else is going to forget about the loss. That’s natural. Life goes on. But that doesn’t mean that your grief isn’t still legitimate six months, one year, two years, (and so on…) later.


5. Having a list of regrets can happen.
It might seem silly to second-guess yourself after the fact (since nothing can bring back the person you lost) but it still happens. Regrets can range from anything from acting like a brat to things you wished that you could have done (like going to that new restaurant that you never got the chance to go to).

6. Just because the person is dead doesn’t mean his or her life didn’t matter.
Even if the idea is naïve, a person’s life should transcend death. A person shouldn’t be irrelevant just because of death. People deserve to be memorialized.

7. Having a parent die of cancer is beyond cruel.
A college kid shouldn’t have to deal with something of that magnitude at that particular point in life. Your late teens and early twenty’s should be about doing well in college and having fun; not watching a parent be taken away in a body bag.

8. The clock might feel like it’s ticking during your loved one’s final weeks/months.
Nothing is going to change the issue of trying to beat a clock. The “dirty little secret” is the “clock” is one thing that can’t be beaten. You might even make a list of things you want to do or talk about with person. The reality is that there is no way all of those things aren’t going to get done. It’s just the way things are. However…

9. That doesn’t mean the most can’t be made of the time that’s left.
You might not have time for everything on your list, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still cross off some things. Deciding what is the most important is what’s key.

10. Self preservation matters before and after the person’s death.
Just because the idea might be horrible, doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. Even when your loved one is in the process of dying, a person still needs to make time for self-care (like getting out of the house for coffee or running errands). That doesn’t make you a bad person. That just makes you human. Recharging your batteries will actually make you a better caregiver. You also need to take care of yourself after experiencing the loss. That means maintaining rituals like Starbucks on Sunday or going to your favorite deli. It isn’t superficial. It’s vital to maintaining your sanity.

11. The day the person actually dies is more taxing than the whole illness itself.
It might be impossible to predict the exact moment when your terminally ill parent is going to die, but there are general signs (such as increased tiredness) that indicate death is coming. That brings up the issue of whether a person should stay in the room when his or her parent actually dies. That is a conundrum no matter what way a person looks at the issue.

12. Staying in the room when your parent dies might appear daunting.
Most hospice literature indicates that the choice to stay in the room when a loved one is actually dying is personal and that a person should not be judged for not staying in the room. It’s true. For some people, it might be too painful to be in room during the actual moment. That’s just a reality of life, even if the idea sounds selfish.

13. It doesn’t make you a coward to not be in the room when your parent dies.
Assuming that your other parent is still alive or that a close friend or family member is also there, it does not make you a terrible person to not want to be in the room during the actual moment. It isn’t going to make the person win the fight against cancer.

14. You still might feel like a coward if you can’t stay in the room during the “moment” even if you aren’t.
It is what is. It might seem awful to not be there during the actual moment, but no college student should have to see his or her parent “actually” die. The guilt might always be there (for those that decided that it was too much to be there during the moment), but other things will happen and that issue will seem less daunting. If you feel like a coward, you should forgive yourself. It might be easier said then done, but there are more grievous sins to commit.

15. You are watching your parent die/you just watched your parent die and there is/was nothing you could do about it.
That thought is enough to blow anyone’s mind. Even if you are going to be upset for the rest of your life, you still have to realize that certain things are beyond a person’s control.

16. The rest of your life is ahead of you…
That is probably one of the most daunting thoughts about losing a parent in college. Your life is still beginning even though your Mom or Dad’s life just ended. The less time spent thinking about that, the better.

17. It’s okay to find something to be happy about.
Intense emotions are normal and healthy to a degree. But you still need to live your life. And if you can find happiness (even for a minute) then hold onto to it as long as you can. The moment will be fleeting.

18. The five stages of grief don’t always happen sequential or at all.
Some people might experience all five while some people might just experience anger. Neither is right or wrong. That’s inevitable. People grieve in different ways.

19. Counseling isn’t for everyone.
It’s one of those things that people seem to love or hate. The important thing is to be able to articulate your feelings about the loss in a healthy nonviolent or non self-destructive manner. The truth is a therapist is there to listen. Anyone can listen. Therapy has become a phony idea. It’s like a thing that has to be done, or it’s wrong if you don’t go to therapy! Going to therapy isn’t going to magical make your problems disappear. They’ll still be there after your appointment is over.

20. Grief can return without even a moment’s notice.
Having grief sneak up on you is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens. The key is not to repress the grief and to be able to acknowledge it. TC mark

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