When a parent dies
Feelings that may be experienced by adults who have lost a parent
There are all sorts of parents, just as there are all sorts of families, and the relationship that their children have with them can vary enormously, but one thing that can’t be denied is that our very existence is down to our parents. Whether or not they were all that we needed them to be, it is certain that they will have had a significant impact on who we are now. It’s no wonder, therefore, that when they die we will have a whole range of complex emotions to deal with, as well the inevitable sadness and grief. Here are a few things to bear in mind:
- Even though you might be an adult with a family of your own, you may feel from time to time like a child who has been abandoned.
- When a parent dies, your role changes. You are no longer their child – you are now the older generation. This may bring with it thoughts of your own mortality.
- Families can be complex and the dynamics may be changed by bereavement. Others in your family may grieve differently from yourself and each other, relationships between partners can be affected, and tensions can arise with family members having different views on practicalities and inheritance.
- If you were caring for your parent during a long illness, you might find yourself struggling to cope now this role has ceased.
- If one parent is still alive, your relationship with them may change. Until now you related to your parents as a couple who supported each other. Now, your surviving parent is on their own grief journey and will need support of their own.
- The death of a parent while you are a young adult can be particularly difficult. At a time when you are just setting out in life on your own, dealing with the practicalities and different emotions of independent living, it can sometimes feel as though you have lost an ‘anchor’ and that you are cast adrift. Child Bereavement UK offers support to young adults up to the age of 25.
- Memories are important. Try to hold on to old photographs or other things that will remind you of happy times. Despite the sadness this may cause at first, in time you will be able to look back on them with fondness.
- Recognise the influence your parent had on you and how they shaped your life. Hold on to the good things, and if there were less happy times, acknowledge them, but let them go.
Don’t forget that a grief journey will be individual to anyone who experiences it, and it will be shaped very much by the relationship that you had with your parent. You will get through your loss, but it will help if you can be honest about your feelings and talk openly with people you can trust. Some people may need extra help with their grief. See our list of bereavement support organisations for details of where to go for further support.