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Melissa Martin: Grieving the sudden death of a parent

Contributed by Melissa Martin, Ph.d

When unexpected death enters our world, we are caught off-guard and unprepared for the intense loss and agonizing pain. We did not get to say good-by to our loved one.

In a mere second of time our lives are forever changed. We struggle to do daily life without our person.

The following are excerpts from a website called Grief Out Loud where grievers tell their stories. You can listen to short clips of these conversations in a series of mini-episodes. I highly recommend this resource. www.deardougy.libsyn.com.

“For Camila, death came barreling into her world with zero warning. When she was 21 her world shifted on its axis on an average morning in September. She woke up in the house she shared with her mother in the Bay Area expecting just another day. Then, she wentto check on her mother, only to find that she had died in her sleep. There were no warning signs. No indicators that anything was amiss. Her mom was there and then she wasn’t. In the 9 years since that morning, Camila has grieved intensely and intently. She’ssearched for connections with her mother, finding an outlet for expression in writing.” The Progression of Grief: A collection of poems (2017) is a self-published book by Camila Martin. The author takes us on an intimate journey through her experience of griefover the seven years following her mother’s unexpected death.

“Five years ago Sarah was 23, doing what a lot of 23-year-olds do – working, hanging out with friends, starting life as a “real” adult, and living at home with her mom and dad. Then on a totally average day in May, Sarah walked into the house to find that hermom had an aortic aneurysm. The paramedics came and she was rushed to the hospital where she died later that night. How do you go from being in one world – the world where your person is alive and washing dishes and folding laundry and calling your name downthe hall – to another where this person no longer exists in their physical form? How do your brain and body and spirit even begin to make sense of that? Sarah talks about the extremely close relationship she had with her mother and how she worked to bridgethis before and after world of grief.”

“In 2017, pop singer-songwriter Neil Davis, was about to release his second album when his father died suddenly of cardiac arrest. In that moment, everything in Neil’s world changed, including his album release plans. A few months ago in March of 2019, Neilreleased a new single, Not Better, which explores the heartbreak of grief and the questions we are left with when someone dies. Questions about gone-ness and what does the term better actually mean when it comes to grief?”

A sudden death is an unanticipated death. While sudden deaths have very different causes, what unites them all is that they are unforeseen. The people bereaved by these deaths have no time to prepare for their loss. Bereavement consequently comes as a shock;a bolt from the blue. Download their free PDF guide about coping with sudden death at www.suddendeath.org.

It is hard to comprehend that your parent, who has always been there, is now gone. There were so many things you did together or had hoped to do with them. Now you must adjust to a new way of perceiving the world. www.ourhouse-grief.org.

My mother also died unexpectedly. And maybe your parent died unexpectedly as well. Nonetheless, our parent lives on in our memories, our DNA, and through our children.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio.

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