Help me support my dad after the death of both his parents.
August 22, 2012 6:08 PM   Subscribe

My father's parents just passed away, two weeks apart exactly. How do I support my dad through this time?

We lost my grandmother on the 8th August, she passed away in hospital from pneumonia and multiple organ failure. Yesterday her husband passed away. They were both 86 years old. My dad, understandably, is taking it pretty hard, and while he seems to be functioning at the moment, I'm very wary of him falling into a depressive slump.

I've taken care of the funeral arrangements for both of my grandparents, and have let my parents know that I'm available for any help they may need... I feel kind of numb, and these have been my first experiences with the death of a loved one. I'm not really sure what to say or do for my dad. How do you help somebody cope with losing both of their parents?

We all realise that 86 is a good age, and Nan and Grandad's health had been deteriorating recently, but it is a shock to lose them both so close together.

This is my first askme question, so I hope I'm not doing it wrong, but I hope you'll forgive that I'm a little more scattered than usual at the moment. I guess I'm just asking if there is anything I should be doing for my dad, other than handling funeral arrangements/paperwork, or if there are any good resources somebody could point me to.
posted by dil.emma to Human Relations (8 answers total)
Sounds like your doing just fine in supporting him.. Make sure you're taking care of yourself as well.

The best advice I ever got about how to deal with supporting someone who has lost a loved one was from an aunt who had lost her husband. She said " just don't cross the street when you see me coming". Hang by him, somehow communicate to him that it's ok for him to ask for what he needs.
posted by HuronBob at 6:15 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you have asked your question just fine, and I think you are doing wonderfully by your father. The best thing that you can do is what you are doing right now: being there for him.

In a situation like this, there is the strong urge to find the right words to say or to do the right thing, but all you can do is be there and mourn with him.

Lord, have mercy.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:17 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I lost my parents it was really just a comfort to have people around. I tend to hide away when I'm in pain, but for whatever reason it was just nice to have companionship. Whether friends, siblings or total strangers.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:45 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does your father have a history of depression? If not, this probably won't plunge him into depression. One comes to understand one's elderly parents have to die, and while it isn't welcome, and one can experience some grief, it isn't necessarily a crisis or a state needing psychiatric intervention.

Maybe just indicate to your dad that if he'd like to talk about his folks sometime you'd be happy to listen?
posted by zadcat at 6:46 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seems to me that you've got it pretty well under control --- or at least as much control as any of us could expect in a situation like that! Your taking care of the funeral arrangements has to be a gigantic help, since probably your father isn't actually depressed, he's most likely simply numb. (No matter how old we get, they were still his parents, his mom and dad.) Just try to hang in there and be there. For what it's worth, I've found that talking about the deceased helps; perhaps drag out old photo albums and look them over with your dad, get him to tell you stories of his parents.

A lot of people worry if what they're feeling is the 'correct' way to grieve: remember that there isn't any one-size-fits-all correct form, and that whatever you feel, and however you feel it, is valid. Some people are wide open books, and show their grief openly; some keep it inside. For some it drags on and on, for others it comes and goes, and still others seem to get over it quickly.

I hate to ask, but does your dad have siblings? If yes, don't forget to offer them sympathy, too. Take care of yourself, too.
posted by easily confused at 7:10 PM on August 22, 2012

Sorry for your loss.

Just echoing everyone else: the more time you can spend available to him, the better. You don't even need to say anything.
posted by troywestfield at 5:53 AM on August 23, 2012

My father lost his younger brother overnight back in April. I wasn't in the same continent but received a call from him. I kept calling him far more often after that (Mom was away when we got the news) but talking about random stuff.

It seemed like he didn't want to go there when I pushed once so I didn't think I had the right to take it there, you see? He's my father, and I am his child (even if I'm 46) and in his worldview, I am not the one he would turn to in that kind of need. Otoh, I'd be expected to do running around and arrangements, sort of like what you've already done. So maybe just being his son for him i.e. his arms and legs, is what you, his son, are already doing, for your parent and your grandparents. Hope this makes sense.
posted by infini at 6:34 AM on August 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. To answer zadcat, he does have a history of depression and other assorted mental health issues, but I think you're right that he will realise that there is no point being hung up on the inevitable. I will continue to just... be around. Thankyou all for the advice.
posted by dil.emma at 4:26 PM on August 23, 2012

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