Childhood routine: Wake up, get fed, play basketball with mommy all evening, come back into daddy’s tired arms and dance with him to my favourite songs, despite his whole day’s exhaustion.
Enter adolescence: Brisk walk with mom through the mall for several hours only so both of us could get perfect outfits, get picked up and dropped off at coaching classes by the strong woman, get nagged and called by dad several times until I was back home from a birthday party.
And finally, adulthood: Leave for the day’s work after saying bye to a mother in meditation and a father reading the newspaper with a pair of eyeglasses and come back to both parents relaxing on the sofa and simply heading to the bed after dinner.
Knock, knock! Reality check here
As I grew older, so did my parents. In fact, they were ageing—more and more each day, falling sick more often, becoming weaker, and giving up on their passions. The worst part?
There was nothing I could do about it, except, die a little more inside, every time mom would complain of a joint ache and dad had to put on his eyeglasses to read the newspaper.
Months of depression, several anxiety attacks, and a lot of paranoia later, I realised, it was affecting me more than I ever anticipated.
Until I decided to put up a strong fight against it.
I took the first step of acceptance
I think fear of loss—especially that of the parents–is multi-layered. It can range from, “what will I do without them?” to “why are my heroic parents suddenly so weak?” to “who will love me as much as they do?” to having to move from “being taken care of” to actually becoming a caretaker yourself. At least that’s what I experienced.
However, acceptance is that weapon that helped me fight the fear. Acceptance of time playing its part, acceptance of ageing and loss being an inevitable part of life, acceptance of moving on to the next stage of life.
And I changed my focus
Needless to say, there was nothing in my power that I could do to possibly stop my parents from ageing. So, instead of letting anxiety consume me, I decided to live in the present and focus on the things that were in my control.
Getting them a yoga instructor, teaching them to use technology for their convenience, shouldering their responsibilities, spending more time with them, reassuring them when they got paranoid, making sure they’re taking medicines on time, and taking them for regular health check-ups—this is what I started spending my energy on instead of sulking and worrying.
Letting my parents know helped too
For the longest time, I felt like expressing my fears in front of my parents would be the biggest mistake of my life. But once I did, they actually started taking better care of themselves after realising how much their well-being affected me.
Surely, communication helps. However, doing it the right way is also important. A calm demeanour, a polite tone, and a lot of love in my eyes is how I came out to them about my fear.
Lastly, I started taking care of myself
The period of grief, fear, and anxiety is the time when you need to take care of yourself more than ever. Just like my parents needed more time and attention from me at this stage of their lives, I needed more attention from myself as well.
This began with seeking solace in trusted friends and venting out my feelings regularly—minus the fear of judgements, of course. This was followed by a strict exercise routine to reduce the stress hormones and release the happy hormones in the body to naturally feel better about myself and well—my situation.
Eating a balanced meal along with my parents was another step that helped me stay sane while promoting good health for my parents as well. And some time alone to introspect, retrospect, and stand back up helped a great deal too.
Thankfully, in my case, all the emotional support and counselling from wise friends helped me through it. However, if you could relate to my situation and are unable to cope with it yourself, please do reach out to a professional for help. I know how overwhelming it can be, trust me.