The death of a parent, the loss of a father or mother, is one of the most emotional and universal human experiences. If someone does not know what it looks like, they will probably do it someday. But the mere fact that almost everyone is a victim of a parent’s death does not make things any easier. The incident is not only traumatic, but it also informs and changes their children biologically and psychologically. It can even make them sick.
“In the best case, the death of a parent is expected and it is time for families to prepare, say goodbye and surround themselves with support,” says psychiatrist Nikole Benders-Hadi. “In cases where a death is unexpected, such as a serious illness or traumatic event, adult children can remain in the phases of denial and anger of loss for long periods … [leading to ] diagnosis of major depressive disorder or even PTSD, if the trauma is involved. ”
There is no amount of data to determine how painful and powerful this grief is. That said, a number of psychological studies and brain imaging show the extent of this loss. Research shows that the posterior cingulate cortex, frontal cortex, and cerebellum are all areas of the brain mobilized during the treatment of bereavement. These regions are involved in memorizing memories and the past, but also in the regulation of sleep and appetite.
In the short term, neurology assures us that the loss will trigger physical distress. In the long run, grief puts the whole body in danger. A handful of studies have established links between unresolved grief and hypertension, heart events, immune disorders, and even cancer. It is not known why grief triggers such physical conditions, but one theory is that a perpetually activated sympathetic nervous system (combat or flight response) can cause long-term genetic changes. These changes – less preprogrammed cell death, reduced immune responses – may be ideal when a bear is chasing you through the forest and you need all the healthy cells you can get. But this type of cellular dysregulation is also the way cancer cells metastasize, without control.
While the physical symptoms are relatively constant, the psychological impacts are anything but unpredictable. In the 12 months following the loss of a parent, the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders considers it healthy for adults who have lost their parents to experience a range of conflicting emotions. including sadness, anger, anger, anxiety, and numbness. , emptiness, guilt, remorse, and regret. It is normal to withdraw from friends and activities. it is normal to get into work.
As always, context matters. Sudden and violent death increases the risk of bereavement among survivors. When the adult child has a fractured relationship with his or her parent, the death can be doubly painful, even if the bereaved person closes and pretends not to feel the loss. “Adapting is less stressful when adult children have time to anticipate the death of their parents,” says Omojola. “Not being able to say goodbye contributes to depression and anger.” This may explain why studies have shown that young adults are more affected by the loss of their parents than middle-aged adults. Presumably, their parents died unexpectedly, or at least earlier than average.
Gender, both parent and child, can particularly influence the contours of a grief response.
Studies suggest that girls have more intense grief reactions than their sons, but men who lose parents may be slower to move on. “Men tend to emit less emotion and compartmentalize more,” said Fatherly Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, and author.
“These factors affect the ability to accept and treat bereavement.” Studies have also shown that the loss of a father was more associated with loss of personal control – purpose, vision, belief, commitment, and self-awareness. Losing a mother, on the other hand, provokes a more brutal reaction. “Many people report feeling a greater sense of loss when a mother dies,” says Manly. “This can be attributed to the often narrow and nurturing nature of the mother-child relationship.”
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