Grieving a Parent's Death

Grief Support

In a society in which employers typically provide three to five days of bereavement pay per year, the perception is that you should be finished grieving and ready to get back to normal after a week.

Ask anyone mourning the loss of a loved one and you’ll know that’s not true.

Everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong amount of time to work through the pain of loss. Tara Fisk of Des Moines understands this all too well. She lost both her parents within three years. Tara’s mother passed away suddenly in 2019 after an apparent heart attack. Tara had been on the phone with her just an hour before she received a call that her mother had died.

In 2021, her father, Tom, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. “When he was 18, Dad went into the Navy. He did some pretty incredible stuff nobody knew about because he was told not to say anything, so he didn’t,” remembers Tara. “He was kind of a strong, silent type. When he got sick, I realized that all that silence was just that he didn’t know how to express his love. And I know he loved me a lot.”

The EveryStep Hospice team in Winterset provided care for Tom for 11 months. “I don't think I would have survived it without them. It taught me a lot about end-of-life care and how beautiful it can be, and they were so good to us,” says Tara. “It was unbelievable. I think people are scared of hospice — like, ‘Oh no, that means death.’ Well, it does mean death. But you get to die with dignity and love and just knowing how valued you are while you're still here. It’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing.”

After Tara’s father died, she was surprised at the intensity of her grief. “Mom was 79, my dad was 84, and I felt like I was 12, you know? I just felt like a little kid that didn't have a home to go home to.” EveryStep Hospice bereavement counselor Jean Walker had provided support during hospice care and was still there for Tara after her dad’s death. “Jean was kind of my shining light. She just kept me grounded and I really appreciate her,” says Tara. Jean called Tara often and suggested she attend the “Understanding Your Grief” support group.

"I used coping mechanisms to deal with the loss of my parents. It made me feel like a horrible person. As if I was a little kid and my brain wasn’t processing life normally —what the heck was wrong with me? Turns out that it's completely normal to go through all those things, and Understanding Your Grief was instrumental in me accepting it. I learned that my grief will never go away, but the world is going to grow around my grief. And that’s okay,” says Tara.

Participants in the support group receive a free copy of Alan Wolfelt's book, "Understanding Your Grief" and learn about 10 essential touchstones for finding hope and healing through loss.

“The book made me feel like somebody took every feeling I had about my grief and my family, and put it on a piece of paper. I felt like they were reading my mind. I look back on my life now that I've gone through this and I think I was such a lucky person that I had such good parents and good life. And so those are the things that I try to remember.”

Free grief support groups like the one Tara attended are hosted at EveryStep Hospice locations in seven Iowa communities and at the EveryStep Grief & Loss Services office (home of Amanda the Panda) in West Des Moines. EveryStep Hospice bereavement counselors are available to meet with families or visit by phone. These services are available to anyone. The counselor can provide families with information or simply lend a friendly ear.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s here. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.