Helping Your Parent Deal With The Death of Their Parent

My grandmother’s in the hospital and probably won’t be coming out. They’ve pretty much put her in a room and are trying to make her as comfortable as possible, and I’d guess she has no more than a week. She’s in her mid-80s and her health has bean declining for the past couple of years- her death isn’t coming as a total shock, but my dad seems to ignore the situation and I’m worried about how he’ll take the inevitable. She wasn’t the best mother and he had a crappy childhood with an abusive father (my dad absolutely hated him, but he’s long dead), but he still cares, even if he doesn’t say so explicitly.

The question is, then: How can his kids help him? What can I do to make this as easy as possible?

I’m not really concerned about my own feelings here. I won’t be terribly torn up when she dies (I don’t mean to be callous, I’m just not very close to her) so don’t worry about consoling me. This will mostly be a lesson in mortality for me and my sister; we’re just concerned about our dad.**

Reactions vary widely, from relief to disbelief to apathy. I doubt that mortality will come as much of a surprise. Play it by ear. Show support.

Sorry for your pending loss. Best of luck to all. Mostly, best wishes for her and the hope that it goes as smoothly as possible. That’s the main thing.

My mom’s still pretty tore up about my grandmother’s death in January. A week after we came home from the funeral, one of her friends called her up and said, “So I guess you’re pretty much over it?”

Don’t do that.

Anyhow, he would probably like to hear your memories of Grandma, whatever positive ones you have, share your expirences together. My condolences on your family’s loss

I agree with Janis. Talk, and let him talk. People seem to assume that bringing up a loved one’s death “reminds” the person of the loss. No chance of them forgetting. But if he doesn’t want to talk, back off for a bit and remain available. The worst thing to do is cover it up like it didn’t happen.

Thanks. We’ll both be going to visit her tomorrow or Saturday, so I’ll be with him for that. He seems really glad over that, so just being there with him apparently means a lot more than I thought.

That’s… Somewhat less than tactful.

I’ll be spending the weekend at home so plenty of just “hanging out” time if he wants to talk. Even if he doesn’t, just being with him might be the best thing I could do for him. Am I right to think just hanging out is ideal if he doesn’t want to talk?

I think so. You can’t feel exactly what he’s feeling, or really understand it from his perspective, so it’s difficult for you to know exactly what will make him feel better. But just being around and being available if he wants to talk or rant or do something which takes his mind away from it is probably the best thing you can do. (The night my dad died my mum and I came home from the hospital and watched Father of the Bride… as it turns out a really crappy choice for all sorts of reasons, but hey, it was her choice!)

In the immediate aftermath there might be practical things you can help with - if you and your siblings are all adult you can probably do some of that stuff, or at least coach him through it. I’m thinking of registering the death, sorting out her stuff and so on, if it falls to your dad to do that. Even the most capable people can flounder a bit in such circumstances.