GUIDING STAR is a new program from Fox Valley Hands of Hope designed to support adults who have gone through the death of a parent or parental figure – their “Guiding Star.” We talked with Christy Pitol, FVHH’s Manager of Bereavement Services, on how the death of a parent affects us, whether we’re 30, 40 or even 60 years old.
When you’re an adult, losing a mother or father is not only difficult, but it almost can be a surreal experience. What happens?
CHRISTY: When you lose a parent, you may have a heightened sense of your own mortality. Even though you may be a strong, independent adult, you might lose a sense of safety and your generational roots. Issues with your siblings may even arise.
Society rallies for a child who has lost a parent, but adults are generally expected to “tough it out.” What if someone finds it difficult to move through their grief, and how can their struggle affect those around them, including their own family members?
CHRISTY: People play down the loss of a parent because it’s expected within the cycle of life. But parent loss can be difficult, especially when you’re parenting your own children. It may be hard for your children to understand your grief. You may have always demonstrated strength and not shown vulnerability in front of them, and now this experience is bringing out feelings you didn’t expect to feel. Your family may not know how to help you.
It also may be difficult for you to find comfort with your brothers and sisters. And that’s because each of you had a different relationship with your parents.
The new Guiding Star program at FVHH is being designed to specifically help adults who have experienced the loss of a parent. How does this program differ from other programs at Fox Valley Hands of Hope?
CHRISTY: Parent-child relationships are changing. For example, younger generations are closer to their parents, and they’re even leaving their childhood homes later than, say, the Baby Boomers did. Younger generations like their parents more, and find they enter into more equal footing with their parents as they move toward adulthood. So parental loss is impacting younger adults in a different, more multilayered, fashion.
Parents also may be helping their adult children raise the grandchildren, and when a death occurs, that day-to-day, practical help may be lost as well.
Then there are adults who may be caring for their parents on a perpetual basis due to early-onset dementia and other conditions. When the death occurs, they’ve not only lost their parent but they’ve also lost their own role as a caregiver.
All of these factors (and more) will be addressed by the new Guiding Star group program at FVHH, so we can address the modern-day complexities of this type of loss.
Guiding Star will be held Tuesday evenings, July 10 to August 21, at Fox Valley Hands of Hope in Geneva, IL. Participation is free; however, registration is required. To register or just to obtain more information, contact Christy Pitol at 630.232.2233 x230, or email her at email@example.com. For information on our other programs, click on the Program Calendar at the top of this page.