We all need our parent(s), and most kids who have grown up with their parents can’t imagine life without them, whether that relationship is rocky or serene. But when a doctor tells you that your time with your parent is limited, that you have a finite number of years, months or days left with your parent, the effect can be haunting.
It seems obvious that one would want to make the most of their remaining time with their parent, but in such emotionally complicated circumstances, young people often feel completely helpless. The purpose of this article is to offer advice on what to do when faced with the difficulty of losing a parent and tips for preparing yourself as much as possible, even if your relationship with your parent is less than perfect.
Learn About What’s Happening
Sometimes there’s nothing scarier than leaving things up to the imagination, especially when you know that something really bad may happen. It’s important to learn about your parent’s condition through a professional so that you can, to some degree, put your mind at ease and prepare yourself for what may or may not lie ahead. Learning facts and details about what is happening is also a good form of support.
A common fear faced by people in this situation is, “If my parent died young, could the same thing happen to me?” Most of the time the answer is no, though cancer is sometimes hereditary, so it is good to talk to your doctor to learn about available check-ups that can rule out this possibility.
Clear Yourself from Guilt
Before you continue with this article, it is imperative to understand that your parent’s illness is in NO way your fault. It is not uncommon for teens to wonder if, in some way, they contributed to their parent’s cancer, or to think that they could have prevented it in some way. The bottom line is that there is no good or fair reason that your parent has cancer, and attempting to justify it by blaming yourself will not help.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask about the Future
It is completely valid to be concerned about how much time you have left with your parent. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your parent or family member this question, ask your parent’s doctor or a health professional.
Find a Trusted Adult
Friends are important in many ways, but it can be hard to tell your deepest and darkest fears about your parent to even your best friend. Find someone your trust - like a teacher, friend, or family member - to talk to. This should be someone whose opinions you trust and respect, and who is willing to offer dependable support. This person should be able to take the heat for what you are about to tell them, and most importantly, they must be able to listen.
Learn About Them
It’s hard to think that you’re not going to have your parent as long as many of your friends will. The fact that they’re not going to be there to tear up at your graduation or possibly walk you down the aisle seems unfair. Though it’s true that you will miss out on sharing some significant life experiences with your parent, it’s not too late to create (or continue to create) different enduring memories.
While illness can draw you closer to your parent or pull you away from them, staying close isn’t easy, particularly because they’re tired and in pain most of the time. If they’re in their hospital room or relaxing at home, use the opportunity to talk to them, ask questions, or tell them about your day. You’re not bothering them; they want to be with you, even if you’re the one telling the stories.
Try Not to Leave Anything Left Unsaid
It’s hard, and pretty much impossible, to have a perfect relationship with anyone, let alone a parent. However, there are some things that will hurt forever if you don’t resolve them while your parent is here. Maybe it’s telling them you love them if you haven’t, or that you really didn’t mean what you said. Saying these things to them will make you and them feel a lot better.
Live Your Life
Your parent would want you to be happy. For them, your happiness is theirs. Share the great moments that you have with them and work hard at the things you love in their honor. Never feel guilty about sometimes feeling happy - it’s what they would want.