At the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling Conference, Dr. Gloria Horsley interviewed Dr. Barbara Scharf about losing a parent as an adult, which is often a minimized loss—and a very difficult one. Your parents are your parents, no matter what your age. Unfortunately, those around you (including those you thought would be part of your support network) might not respond with the empathy, listening skills and compassion you need when you lose a parent later in life. Today, Dr. Scharf’s mother is almost 90 years old and credited with teaching her children to always be optimistic and see the cup as halfway full.
“People think that when you lose a parent as an adult, it’s not a big deal. But it is!” says Dr. Horsley. It’s been 18 years since Dr. Scharf lost her father, but says her mother has played a huge role in helping everyone in the family move forward. Dr. Scharf says her mother has overcome a stroke, always has a smile on her face and is always looking forward.
Building Your Network
From her mother, who was of course grieving the loss of a husband, Dr. Scharf and her sister learned that there’s always sadness in life, but always happiness, too. It’s important to find the best support network for you during a loss, and it may not be who you expect. Losing a parent means many in the family are undergoing a loss, and they may react in a myriad of ways. Dr. Scharf considers herself lucky to have such a strong mother as a role model, but other people may need to look farther for inspiration.
She encourages everyone to work diligently to find support. You may need to ask, which can be difficult in the grieving process. However, it’s paramount for healing.