The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

Losing a Parent When You Are an Adult

Mourning, memory journals, and moving on

Made by Chloe's hand
My client Anna, a 45-year-old lawyer, cried as she talked about her Dad who passed away.

 

“My Dad took care of things. He had this way of making you feel, no matter what, that everything was going to be okay. When I was a kid, I was scared of being kidnapped so he told me a story, was it O’Henry?…about how a kid was taken. This kid tortured his captors so much; frogs in the bed, backtalk—something like that—that they brought him back and dropped him on the doorstep. They may not have been the exact story, but I was never scared again.

Dad used to walk through the house with a baseball bat when we returned from trips. I was always worried that someone was lurking. I don’t think he thought for a second anyone was in there, but he did it to make me…us…feel safe.

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We talked late at night when I was kid it was at the kitchen table and later we spoke over the phone. He was a good listener and a lawyer so I told to him about my cases and he advised me.

But you should know, I know, it wasn’t all good, really…he had a temper. He could be scary and critical, intolerant. He told me my writing wasn’t up to par. He put my Mom down.

I feel silly, childish, for crying sometimes. It comes on suddenly, in the car or if I smell cinnamon. He used to put cinnamon in the French toast on Sundays…

No one else will ever care as much about the little and big things that happen to me.”

The loss of a parent at any age can have a profound impact. Mourning might include sadness over what you did not receive as well as what you did. You might feel relief and emptiness at the same time.

Memory Journals can help you manage the loss or contain the experience. Open a folder on your device or pick up a bound journal and a good-flow pen.

Follow these three steps.

1. First, record the details of the memory or the troubling experience.

2. Next, write your reactions to what occurred—what you felt, thought, said, did or did not say.

3. Finally, reflect on what you have written. What can you learn or conclude or garner now?

Take it out of your mind, through your hand and onto the page. Anna said that writing about her Dad helped her deal with the loss.

 

Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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