Getting on track after loss of loved one

As we age, we begin more often to feel the losses of our parents’ friends and closest family, then parents, friends and spouses.

  • Jun. 22, 2012 2:00 p.m.

Last week was Father’s Day, the first one I’ve experienced since my father passed away in November.

To say it was a bittersweet day, enjoying some moments with my own children while lamenting the loss of my father, is, for certain, an understatement.

The loss of loved ones is a part of life, tragically so when they seem to pass too early, but always sadly so regardless of the inevitability of their passing.

As we age, we begin more often to feel the losses of our parents’ friends and closest family, then our parents and eventually our own friends and spouses.

I remember a conversation with my father last summer when he reflected on the fact that he was tired of attending funerals of his friends.

I suspect he meant that both physically and emotionally.

Each loss left him physically drained and emotionally more isolated.

He talked about it, perhaps more openly than my mother, because his own illness was bringing him to a recognition that his time was coming to a close.

In some ways he rationalized this by expressing the fact that there was no one of his peer group around anymore, so he’d had more than his share of time on earth.

My mother, on the other hand, was pretty stoic about the losses.

She’d had a miscarriage as a young mother and been the emotional backstop for numerous family funerals over the years.

She was well versed in coping with loss and accepted that life must go on for the sake of those left behind.

All that, until my father passed.

It was funny to me, that almost immediately upon the passing of my father, my mother deferred decision-making to me and my sister.

Even the details of the funeral were left to us.

As an always strong and independent figure in our household, this was a whole new behaviour for her, and my sister and I viewed it most likely as a phase she would need to go through as part of coping with her loss.

It has not really turned out to be a phase, at least not yet.

I suspect that’s how significant losses affect us all, especially as we age. They throw us completely off the track on which we would normally travel and with each reminder of the loss, through holidays and birthdays, we are derailed once again.

If we have other work or family responsibilities, we are forced to come back to our track quickly.

But if, as most elderly find themselves, there is no routine to return to, the loss becomes that much greater and the reminders that much more difficult.

Time heals, of course, and as each year passes the pain of loss is numbed a bit, but it never really goes away for those too old to truly get back to life as usual.


Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare (

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