Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were to lose your parents one day? Do you feel scared at this thought? Reader Sumedha asks this question:
How do you overcome the fear of losing your parents or your loved ones? Beyond burying our heads in work and miscellaneous distractions, and ignoring this sinking feeling of something that we don’t wish to face, what can we do to tackle this fear?
In this episode of The Personal Excellence Podcast, I share
- The nature of death [03:59]
- 2 key reasons why most people feel (heavy) guilt or fear of losing their loved ones [06:42]
- Reader Kimberly’s loss of her dad and my advice to her [07:19]
- The eternity of our spirit [08:15]
- Carrying on your loved one’s message after he/she has passed on [08:57]
- How to address the fear of losing loved ones [12:10]
- Loving our parents (and loved ones) start today [12:47]
- Showing love doesn’t have to be materialistic [13:45]
- Lag time when you try to improve your relationship with your parents [14:33]
- We should not take life for granted [14:58]
- Create a list of things start loving and appreciating your parents (or loved ones) — starting today [16:21]
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I’m Scared of Losing My Parents. What Should I Do? [Transcript]
Welcome to The Personal Excellence Podcast. The show that’s all about helping you be your best self and live your best life. Now, your host, Celestine Chua.
Celestine Chua: Hey everyone! Welcome to the Personal Excellence Podcast Episode 4. I’m Celestine Chua from PersonalExcellence.co.
So thank you so much for listening today. I hope you are having a wonderful day. It’s Wednesday here right now and I’m just looking forward to speaking to you guys.
Today we have a question from Sumedha, who wants to know how to deal with the fear of losing our parents. Well, let’s hear from her first.
Hey Sumedha, thank you so much for your question. A very very heartfelt question and I really appreciate how open you are.
Well, I want to say first that your question just speaks volumes about how much you love your parents and how filial you really are. Because I can hear this strong sense of emotions coming through as you were speaking just now.
I totally understand the fear of losing your parents because for most of us, our parents raised us. They are and have been a big part of our lives. For some of us, it’s the first 18 years of our lives; for the others, it could well be the whole of our lives especially those of us in living in Asian cultures.
So losing our parents is definitely a very real fear. And I personally can understand, in that losing my parents as a real possibility that I need to prepare for. Something to realize especially in the past one year. Besides the fact that all of us will die one day, it’s also that my parents are now older. I’m now 31 turning 32 (as of 2016), so my parents are in the 60s, they are not getting any younger.
With old age comes the fact that they are not as fit or healthy as before. Especially my mom — I’ve not mentioned this anywhere, but my mom was diagnosed with cancer last year. Everything’s fine now, like she’s going through treatment and so on. So everything is going great. It really helps that she’s optimistic. She’s incredibly independent and she just brushes off the whole issue as if it’s no big deal. It really makes things easier for us.
But it also brought home this message that maybe there isn’t going to be a lot of time left with my parents and it’s really important that I make the best out of the time that I have with them now.
Death is a Reality
So, the first thing is to know that death is a reality. In that one day, you are going to die. So am I, I’m gonna die as well.
This is the same for our parents if your parents are still around. For those of you whose parents aren’t, I’m really sorry to hear about your loss. And you probably can empathize more than anyone else the things that we’re talking about right now.
For some of us, our grandparents aren’t even around anymore. For me, all my grandparents have already passed on except for one of my grandmothers.
So the fact is we are all going to die. And I don’t this as a sad thing as much as it is simply part and parcel of life, if it makes sense?
Because for there to be life, there has to be death. For an organism, in order for it to live, it will have to experience death. That is part of the beauty and the nature of living.
So I don’t really think that’s a need to resist the idea or the notion of death as much as understanding it’s part of our being, like just being here on Earth.
And it’s the same for our loved ones as well. If our loved one is to pass on, it’s not really about resisting this idea as much as understanding that this is part of the entire package when we were brought to this Earth. As opposed to feeling negative about it, I think it’s about how can we make the best of it.
This brings to my second point which the key point here isn’t about how can we get rid of the fear, even though that’s not really why you’re asking Sumedha. I don’t really think the key point here is about how we get rid of the fear that surrounds death or death of our parents or how can we detach ourselves from this fear.
Because our parents will die one day as will us. When you love someone, that will naturally be the fear of losing them. I don’t really think it’s about detaching yourself from this fear as much as you asking yourself, “How can I make the best out of my time with them while we are alive?”
Two key reasons for fear/guilt of losing our loved ones
I see the majority of this fear surrounding the death of our loved ones, it comes down to two things:
- Regretting not loving them or not expressing our love for them, our appreciation for them while they were alive.
- Being at a loss, not knowing what we are going to do or what’s going to become of us when our parents pass on. That we’ll be alone in this world without the very people who raised us, who brought us to this Earth.
Let me tackle the second factor first, then the first factor.
Reader Kimberly’s Loss
There was this course participant and longtime reader Kimberly who sent in this Ask Celes letter a couple of years back. Some of you might have read that post before. It’s at personalexcellence.co/blog/loss-of-loved-ones/
So Kim’s father passed away unexpectedly and she was at a loss. This was when she sent in the Ask Celes letter. She wanted to ask me what she should do because she felt that her dad had been this great supporter and inspiration to her, and one of the closest persons in her life up until his passing. She just didn’t know what to do.
In that post, I talked to her about several things and you can read the post in detail for that. But mainly what I mentioned was that just because your dad has passed away doesn’t mean that he isn’t around. This depends on your own spiritual or religious beliefs, but I personally believe that we are souls and we live on forever. Physical death is merely the ending of one part of our existence. Our souls live beyond that. So depending on what you believe, I personally believe that her dad is still around and is well possibly still with her in spirit.
The second thing is, say you don’t believe in spiritual existence or you focus on the fact that your loved one isn’t around anymore. Just because someone dear to you has passed on doesn’t mean that the person’s existence shouldn’t be a part of your life, if it makes any sense. You can still cherish that person’s existence and the impact he/she has made in your life before, by carrying on the messages that you remember from him or her.
For example, in Kim’s case, I told her that she can still uphold her dad’s spirit. Continuing to be inspired by him. And that just because your loved one, parent, or parents have passed on does not mean that they should stop being a motivator in your life. They can still be. You can carry on your values, their teachings, whatever they told you before, their love for you. Carrying that on in your own way and spreading that to the people you meet, the people who are in your lives. So in essence, your parents still live on in you, in spirit.
The other thing I told Kim is that beyond being inspired and motivated by her dad — which is a fantastic thing — it’s important that she learns to live on for herself.
Her dad might have ignited in her about her goals, her dreams, but ultimately that is the catalyst to her finding herself and learning how to live for herself. Creating the life that she loves for herself and for the people around her (at that point she just had a baby).
So that was the cliff notes of the article and you can read more at that link. Kim read it and after about one year three months, she replied to me. She told me how things have been really good for her. She is now an editor of a monthly “Good News” newspaper in her town. She has doubled her income. She’s spending all the time pursuing her passion, doing what she loves in photography and in writing. Meeting people who truly inspire her and being excited about her work. Also, her daughter is already two, and she is continually inspired by her every single day. Basically, she is living life on her terms and living her true path. Reading that I was so excited and happy for her.
The key thing that I want to say here is that sometimes we may be fearful of losing our loved ones or our parents. It can be because we do not know how life would be after they are gone. The most important thing is to know that you can continue to carry on their existence in spirit and to honor who they are, as well as to know that you will be fine at the end of the day.
Because your parents brought you to Earth for a reason. Because they know that you are going to make it. That you are going to be this fighter. And you’re going to be spreading light to this entire world. And that’s why your parents had you. That’s why they brought you into this world.
Loving our parents start today
Getting to the first point that I was mentioning just now, about regretting not loving our parents, regretting not appreciating them while they are alive. This is a very real concern. Sometimes we can be so inundated with all the different concerns, the objectives, the pressures of daily living that we can forget about the things that are most precious to us. In this case, it would be our parents or our loved ones.
I feel here it’s about realizing that showing love for our parents and being there for our parents, it doesn’t have to and shouldn’t wait till they are gone, if you know what I mean? We do not need to wait until our parents have died and for us to be crying and regretting what we should’ve done or shouldn’t have done. Loving our parents and showing love and appreciating them, it can happen today.
To Sumedha and all of you out there who may be feeling fearful of losing your parents or loved ones, I feel that a chunk of this fear may simply come down to you feeling that you are not doing as much as you wish for them. My point to you is that it can all start now. It doesn’t have to wait until a few months or a few years later. Or when you feel that you’re ready.
It also doesn’t have to come in the form of gifts, monetary goods, giving them a big house, or buying them a car. It doesn’t have to be something materialistic. It can just simply be you being there, you spending more time with them. And I can tell you for sure that they are going to appreciate that. They are going to appreciate the fact that you are being there for them.
Sometimes it may not come through right away, especially let’s say you’ve had a period of baggage with your parents. Maybe years of conflict and I know some of you have that.
So let’s say you suddenly turn things around and start contacting them out of the blue or start interacting with them more openly after a period of not doing so. Sometimes there’s a lag time. Maybe they will respond negatively or they will respond nonchalantly or wonder, What the heck are you trying to do? This was what I experienced in the past when I was trying to improve my relationship with my parents.
But in a matter of time, they will start to see what you’re doing, as well as appreciate what you are trying to do here, even if it may not be spoken.
So to you Sumedha, you are 17. You’re so young. I do not know how old your parents are and it doesn’t even matter how old your parents are, to be honest. Because we should not take life for granted. Because any one of us can just disappear and die tomorrow.
The key point I want to mention here is that your parents have not passed away yet. Every moment you feel fearful of them passing on or them not being around anymore, it’s not being in the moment because your parents have not passed away yet!
As long as you are worrying and fearful that they are not around, you’re just putting yourself in this future potential state which is not even here! As opposed to focusing on the fact that your parents are alive, well, with you and asking yourself, “What can I do with them?” and “What can I do for them out of my love for them?”
I would recommend to focus on loving them right now today, every day, in your best own capacity. Not loving them because you have to. But loving them because you want to. As opposed to worrying about what to do, when/if they die because they are not dead yet. The point is that they are still around, they are still with you.
1) Things you want to tell your parents
So I’d recommend, to all of you listening right now, brainstorm and come up with a list. This list should comprise two things:
The first thing is, think about what are the things that you have always wanted to tell your parents but you haven’t. This can be something like I love you. I know can sound insane especially for those of us living in the Asian culture. I know if I say “I love you” to my parents they’ll think I’m nuts and I’ve gone wonky.
So what I do instead when I try to say I love you to them, is that I present it in the way that they will understand. This can be in terms of the common lingo that’s used in my family is, “Have you eaten? Have you eaten dinner? Have you had lunch?” This is the common lingo in my family that expresses concern. Now obviously, it can be different from family to family.
Of course, just simply spending time. Let’s say my dad is in the living room and watching TV. For me just sitting there and I can be doing my own work but just having this time together. We might not be talking because my dad isn’t someone who talks a lot. So just spending time with him is my way of expressing love to him which I feel he understands as well.
For my mom, my mom is more articulate. So I make a point to try to call her once a week or once every few days to check on things, how she is doing. I try to go back home as much as possible. But I’m now married and living my own place which is quite far away from where I used to live with my parents. So calling her and this is something I did not do in the past. But over the years it just came naturally. In the past, I would think this is bizarre and strange to just be talking to my mom on the phone. But now we can even be talking for several minutes, 10 minutes, which is long considering we used to not talk. Whereas in the past, it would be like me screaming and shouting and all of us just shouting at each other and that.
2) Things you want to do with them, for them
So that’s the first thing. Think about things you want to tell your parents. The second thing is to think about the things you want to do with your parents and for them.
The best way to imagine this is to think about the day when your parents pass on. When that happens, what you wish to have done with them, for them? For me, it is my wish to bring my parents on a vacation. Well, it has not materialized at all because my parents simply do not believe in traveling overseas. They simply think that it is a waste of money. And I totally understand and respect that. So my parents are extremely frugal. We come from a low-income family and these views helped shape me and make me someone who is prudent about her expenditures and careful with money and I totally appreciate that. But I also hope that one day, I’ll be able to bring them on a vacation, when they are ready to, when they wish to. And of course when my mom is better and she finishes her cancer treatment and so on.
So that is something that I have in mind when that time comes. But in the meantime before that happens, nowadays I would every few months suggest that all of us, like the whole family — my brother and his girlfriend, and me and Ken and my parents — that we just go out and have a meal. This is something that my parents value. They regard going out for a meal as a celebratory event. So that is something that is in line with their language of love.
So that’s for me. How about for you? What are the things that you want to do with your parents and for them?
Now is the time
For these two particular things, (a) things you want to tell your parents and (b) things you want to do with your parents or for them, think about how you can start working on that right now. Not like a few years down the road or whatever unless there are certain circumstances that you need to put this thing off.
For the things that you are able to act on right now, how can you make that happen right now? Think of this as a natural expression of your love to your parents and then working it as part of your regular routine and your regular self in terms of your interactions with them.
I believe that as you do that more and more, expressing your love — through actions, through words, through the time that you spend with them — you may well find that the fear of losing our parents starts to reduce. That’s because you are now truly embracing and bringing your relationship with your parents higher and higher, to the level it can be.Whereas previously, the fear might have been from a pent-up regret that you may well not get to do/say the things that you want to your parents when they pass on. Now you are actually taking action on this.
Instead of fearing when they pass on, you are appreciating and finding joy and love in the time that you spend with them. And this is the key point here. Not to immerse yourself in guilt, regret or fear, but to immerse yourself in the love you have for parents. Because I believe that part of that fear is stemming from how much you really love them. And then to let this love flourish. Let them know how much you love them. Don’t wait for a later time because sometimes this later time may well not come. And I truly hope that your relationship with your parents will flourish to its highest level. 🙂
So keep me posted on how things go Sumedha. To all of you listening to this, whether your parents are with you or not, I truly believe that our loved ones are with us in spirit, even if they might have left the Earth. So I hope this message gets out to anyone when needs to hear this today.
If you find the podcast helpful in any way, I would really appreciate it if you could give us a great rating on iTunes. That would really support the show and help us reach more people.
So thank you so much for listening. And I look forward to speaking to you guys in the next episode. Bye guys!
End Note: Thanks for listening to The Personal Excellence Podcast. For more tips on how to live your best life, visit www.personalexcellence.co
- ‘My Father Just Passed Away and It Seems Pointless that He Isn’t Around Anymore. What Should I Do?’
- How to Improve Your Relationship With Your Parents (series)
- ‘How Can I Overcome the Fear of Losing Loved Ones?’