Grief and Loss: Loss of a Parent

April 04, 2020

Grief and Loss: Loss of a Parent

Even though we know we are supposed to outlive our parents, nothing can quite prepare us for the shock and sadness we feel when they pass.  Whether their death is sudden or drawn out with illness, there may be unresolved issues that influence our grief.  Perhaps, you didn’t get the chance to talk with your dad one last time before his passing.  Or maybe your mother’s death occurred right before a holiday, wedding, birthday, or other special event.  It is natural to be affected by the grieving process, regardless of the circumstances or age of your parent. 

Common Feelings after Losing a Parent

Even if you are an adult when your parent passes, you will still struggle through some common emotions associated with grief.  Many children, even grown ones, feel confusion about their new identity and role in the family.  You may feel as though no one will ever love you the way your mom or dad did.  If your other parent is alive, it might become your responsibility to care for them, especially in their grief.  Other common emotions might include guilt for what you didn’t say or do, frustration with the new tasks you’ve assumed, and uncertainty dealing with legal and financial matters. 


When both parents are gone, it’s natural for a person to feel like an adult orphan.  Your identity might change, as well as your role.  Suddenly, you might find yourself to be a member of the oldest living generation in your family.  You might feel an overwhelming desire to carry on your parents’ values and traditions or maybe start new ones. 

Processing Grief Differently

Everyone will experience grief and loss at some point, but no two people will process it the same way.  After the loss of a parent, some people aren’t sure how to respond.  People may not understand why you are grieving if your parent lived a long life.  Others who have already lost a parent may step in and support you with comforting words and kind acts.  Your siblings may also be struggling with your parent’s death, but they might grieve in an entirely different manner.   


Coping with Grief 

There is no correct way to grieve and no universal timeline for it.  Grief will look different for everyone.  However, the following are a few considerations for taking care of yourself when you lose a parent:

  • Be alone and together- There are times when grieving is done privately. On other occasions, sorrow is expressed as a group.  Give yourself permission for both of these responses.  At times, you will want to share your feelings with other family members.  Other moments you might rather be alone with your thoughts.  Both are common and acceptable.
  • Release guilt- Some adult children may feel relief when their parent passes. This is especially common when the parent has been suffering from chronic pain or illness.  Also, if the child has been the primary caregiver, feelings of relief are natural.  You should not feel guilty if you experience this emotion. 
  • Prepare for holidays- You should expect the holidays to be hard, especially the first year without your parent(s). Plan ahead for how you would like to honor them or their traditions.  Consider how you will best care for yourself as well on holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. 
  • Respect others’ grief- Because everyone grieves differently, relationships may be stressed and strained after a loss. Understand that your siblings and other family members may need more or less time than you to process their pain.  Be patient and lean on one another for support.  Ask for help when you need it. 
  • Foster old and new relationships- No one can take the place of your mom or dad. However, there’s nothing wrong with finding someone to offer support, comfort, and the wisdom you might need.  This could be a relative or another friend who perhaps has been a mentor to you.
  • Preserve memories- What stories of your parents would you love your children to know? Think about the memories you want to pass on to future generations.  Writing these down can help you process your own grief, while preserving timeless memories for grandchildren and other young family members. 
  • Seek help- Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, that doesn’t mean you cannot benefit from talking to a therapist or support group about your loss. Sharing your feelings aloud with a professional and others who’ve experienced losing a parent is an excellent way to care for yourself. 

Many times loss is unexpected.  And even when we’re anticipating it, we might not be prepared for how we will react.  When we are grieving, we are more likely to stop or minimize healthy habits.  Much of the healing process, however, is related to good self-care.  Taking the time to get proper rest, eat well, and exercise regularly is essential to your healing after you experience a loss.  These healthy choices will help you transition to a place of hope after a loss, and will serve to honor your parents’ wishes for your health and happiness.  


Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.



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