Ask a Franciscan

One of Life's Great Losses

How do I understand and find peace in the death of a parent?

Please accept my condolences on the death of your father or mother. Allow yourself to grieve properly but without being absolutely consumed or paralyzed by this death. Joining a support group for people who have recently lost a loved one may be helpful. If not, consider seeking individual grief counseling.

At some point, I think you may want to ask: How can I best honor the memory of this parent? How can I best honor what was most important to that person and to me? Was this parent active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society or some other charity? Could you be also? Was this parent an active supporter of some art, civic, or humanitarian organization? Could you be? Which of this parent’s interests would you like to continue promoting?

It’s important to select something that you truly enjoy. Doing something simply from a sense of sheer obligation will eventually wear very thin and can become counterproductive.

None of this will bring your parent back, but it will move you toward greater compassion and solidarity than if you allow your grief to lock you into isolation and bitterness.

As I write this, many people are grieving friends or relatives who died during the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes alone in a hospital or nursing home.

If a deceased person could observe how you are grieving his or her death, would that person affirm your choices or perhaps suggest more healthy alternatives? Be as honest about this with yourself as you can. Know that God always loved that person and continues to love you. Your sense of loss can shrink your heart or enlarge it metaphorically. Which will it be?

Ask a Franciscan


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