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How to cope with the loss of a parent?

My mom has end stage ALS, I know she doesn't have much longer but every time I think about her passing I have a panic attack. I cannot conceive of life without her, how do I cope with this?
Status: Open    Jan 19, 2015 - 09:30 PM

Relationships, End of Life

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Expert Answers

Feb 03, 2015 - 07:52 AM

You may be experiencing a form of “anticipatory grief”. This type of grief can set in as a person witnesses their loved one’s loss of independence, inability to manage daily living tasks, and awareness about end-of-life. Observing your mother’s failing health may be triggering anxiety and panic as you feel a loss of control and helplessness.

To reclaim a sense of power over what you can control, you may want to explore some positive actions.

· Search for either an online grief support group or one held regularly in your community.

· Seek therapy from a grief counselor who can identify coping techniques suitable for your personality and help you manage your symptoms.

· Read articles or a book on grief and loss. Knowledge about your sadness and associated anxiety might help in understanding your panicky reactions more fully.

· Use the time remaining with your mother to tie up loose ends in your relationship. Many people regret the things they left unsaid after a loved one passes unexpectedly, whereas you have a bit of time.

Ira Byock, physician and author of “Dying Well” suggests that family members and their dying loved one exchange the following words: I love you-I forgive you-Forgive me-Thank you.



Mar 18, 2015 - 09:58 AM

I too had this anticipatory grief. I would cry on my drive to work. Cry in bed quietly not to wake my husband and cry on the 3 hr drive every other weekend to relieve my sister and contribute to my mother. I decided to go to a grief group at my church. When talking one day I was askd when my mother had passed. When I said she hadn't yet I was looked at in disbelief. They askd why I was there. I responded that I wanted to be prepared for when she did. (can you say controll personality) It was suggested to me and it was a simple suggestion that I just spend as much time as I could with her until that time. As simple as that suggestion was it opened my eyes to the stop obsessing about the end but to focus on the time I had with her now. Did I stop the crying? No but it did lessen somewhat.

Mar 29, 2015 - 09:04 PM

I lost my father to cancer in 2012. I had a difficult time in denial, backed away, then realization. I didn't have hours each time I went but even if it was an hour we'd find something to talk about. One thing that did occur is he said something to me I waited to hear 30 years. The time came he was in so much pain a very small family gathered and my daughter his pride came from Pa. Our final day was almost a party with my dad the entertainer. Always the life of the party. That day we all still talk about. He was given his medicine, still lingered, I went only 10 or 15 minutes and told him he didn't have to take care of us, told him to go , I loved him and received a call 2 hours later he was gone. For me that was special, a final connection. I still cry, I am now but I have managed to focus on the good times including his last party and I'm ok. Do some reading, listen to her favorite music, go for a walk and talk of trees. It might help.
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