Bidding farewell – coping with the loss of a parent

A short while ago my father left his body. In the following article I would like to share my experience of saying good-bye to him. May it help the reader in similar circumstances.

The forces that can be active during the time of death of a loved one and in the sudden new life situation are indescribable. The mind can hardly grasp the dimensions at work. The confrontation with the finitude of bodily life certainly “does something” to those left behind. It’s a multi-dimensional event. At least this is, how I perceive it.

Already during the first few days after my father left, I recognised one important element: as with many circumstances – or actually with all of life – the key for handling the death of someone, lies in the NOW, the present moment.

I found remarkable, that upon death of somebody close to us, our thought process brings us quickly and easily to all sorts of related memories. Like an automated magnetism, many images and feelings from olden times, the past, pop up. Also thoughts about what the deceased person will miss and no more experience from now on. But melancholy and attachments of this type and the associated grief don’t serve us, don’t give us any strength. Most power flows into our system by being in the present. Worries or assumption regarding one’s own future are another typical habit of the mind, however are not useful either. Strength, support and good ideas really reach us when we stay consciously in the present moment.

Being present requires a disciplining of the thoughts by the mourner though. A choice s/he has to make every moment anew. I just experienced myself how this works. It’s a balancing act. Allowing to feel human grief, but not immeasurably, eternally suffering over and over again. Otherwise the suffering weakens the heart and overall system.

Consciously and wholeheartedly I dedicated one whole day to my father. I held my very own ceremony. I went to a mass at church (he would have liked it a lot), I meditated, prayed, played sacred music and mantras, burned candles and just sat down contemplating the new situation. I welcomed all thoughts or feelings and watched what happened within me. I went through various memories and the whole spectrum of emotions – sadness, joy, anger, compassion, forgiveness. I observed, felt and breathed. Ultimately the “biggest wave”, that of gratitude and love, engulfed me. And although this was very touching and somewhat painful, it was equally, if not more, empowering and essentially soothing. Giving me also the knowledge: everything was and is ok.

I’m at deep peace with what has been and what is now. And I’m happy about our last meeting and our last phone call – those encounters were infused by nearness and a loving connectedness.

It is clear to me that my father died, because his job was done in this life. There was nothing else that could have been done. And given my own near-death experience as a teenager, through meditation and own past life regression, I just know that the body “stops” , but the soul moves on. Finity is relative.

My father – April 1973 , and a year ago in August 2012, (* 1936 , † 2013)
My father – April 1973 , and a year ago in August 2012, (* 1936 , † 2013)

I noticed that thoughts tend to go back to the memories, again and again. And here it is necessary, not to hold on to all that which comes up in terms of images and feelings. Conscious handling of the thoughts and conscious detachment from the grief over that which is no longer – and perhaps never was – is crucial for staying emotionally somewhat stable. Don’t throw a mental anchor in the stories your mind creates, instead let go of them. Consciously perceive, breathe and move on. It is also important to avoid carrying the pain, the problems or missed opportunities of the deceased. Not to turn their issues into our suffering. Direct the light of presence and awareness towards the clouds of sadness and let them dissolve.

The process of releasing oneself from the dead person has also something to do with letting go of energy cords that connect us human beings to each other. The mourner may ask for the release of those bonds on all levels (physical, energetic, emotional) in form of a prayer, as I did. For example: “May the highest divine light dissolve and heal all my entanglements and attachments to (name of the deceased), now. May we be in pure love and freedom.” I felt that this process allowed my father to really go and that it relieved me. It proved helpful to repeat this throughout the day. On the one hand this process made my heart more sensitive, on the other hand also stronger. I got the impression that it was also those energy cords between myself and my father’s soul, who was on its “ascending journey to the heavens”, which might have caused that I felt my life to be exceptionally intense, filled with finer, almost mystical vibrations and perceptions in that period.

I could have never imagined this process, and I believe it can only be experienced. Eventually I noticed the rise of an equanimity and sobriety which really supported me. And I think it is important not to judge this composure as bad, distant, cold, or as a condition one might feel guilty about. It has helped me to get centred and stabilised in my situation. It allowed me to be awake, present and compassionate – without feeling overwhelmed by my own and other people’s emotions.

Sure, there were moments of sadness, but they did not slide helplessly into abysmal pain. As I said, it’s a balancing act on the rope of presence, really not easy. But doable. It’s an attainment through awareness, disciplined thinking and an open heart.

Prayer for the deceased
Lord, grant him/her the fulfillment of his/her yearning for love and complete his/her life in you.
Let him/her behold thy face.
United with the angels they praise and laud thy glory. We ask you: give our dead this new life. Receive them in the communion of saints and bless them with the fortune to look at you and celebrate you.
Lord, you’re close to all who call you. We also call you in our state of hardship and suffering. Let us not sink into despondency and despair, but comfort us with your presence. Give us the strength of your love, which is stronger than death. With our deceased lead also us to new and eternal life.
Lord, give him/her eternal rest.
May eternal light shine forth for him/her.
Let him/her rest in peace.
Thank you. Amen.
Extracts from Gotteslob, Gebet- und Gesangbuch (Praise of God, Book of prayers and hymns),
Bishopric Münster, Germany 1975

May I take the opportunity to leave a pragmatic note:
Those of you still alive, please regulate with your offspring everything that can be settled during this lifetime. Decide how you would like to be cremated, write a will and create one folder with all the important papers. Give what you can with warm hands while you live. And clarify your unresolved issues and relationships now. Free yourself to go at any time, in peace.


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