Overcompensating After a Parent Dies

We are now in the second week after the death of my husband’s mother. The two of us are taking it easy and accomplishing the most important tasks. Also, we are breathing a bit easier because Mother is no longer in such extreme discomfort. The last few weeks were tough for her.

However, I’ve noticed a funny reaction on my part, and it does not relate to my mother-in-law at all. As we continue to say good-bye, I am doing extra worrying — needless worrying, actually — about my two active parents who are in their 80’s and in basically good health.

My anxiety takes the form of daily phone calls, which they do not mind, but I am also asking them how they are and fussing at them to do this or that, which they do mind. Or worse yet, I am imagining the things that COULD happen to them. It is almost like being a neurotic new parent, except — I am not a new parent. And for every time I have bugged my parents, there are two or three times that I catch myself. I am an experienced parent, and I know better.

Case in point… A few days ago I found myself obsessing about potential falls. So I went online and found all sorts of links to sites that sell walking sticks and canes. The links were really interesting, and I never knew just how many attractive canes and walking sticks available for purchased (one can match any outfit or activity). Later I’ll post these links on this blog. However, I did not need to send them on to my parents…at least not now.

At this point my parents are lovingly tolerant of my overcompensation.

So I’ve discovered an interesting aspect of the aging child bereavement experience– one that no one has ever mentioned to us. I do not see anything in the bereavement literature that describes the problem. I’ll ask the Hospice social worker about this to see what she thinks.

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