Grief Topic

Grief Reactions Associated with the Death of a Parent

The death of a parent, at any age, is a very significant event, It can challenge your emotional world and your identity Whether your relationship with them was close and loving, or a difficult one, you are now faced with the need to grieve for someone who has been a very important part of your life. Even if distance, conflict, illness or something else have meant you have not seen much of your parent, after their death you may find that you still have powerful feelings of grief.

Some common experiences

  • You may have feelings of sadness, anger, fear, numbness, loneliness, guilt, confusion.
  • The memories of your parent initially may be clouded by images of their last illness, such as their suffering, the hospital beds, the drip tubes. These will fade over time so you will more clearly remember them as they really were.
  • Like others before you, you may feel like an orphan – all alone in the world – especially when both parents have died.
  • You may also find, that for the first time, you are facing what death really means, and realise that one day you will die too. This can be frightening. It may also mean the start of a journey to discover “What is the meaning of life now for me?” * You may suddenly realise that now you are “the older generation” and there is no longer a parent to consult, or someone to “be there” for you in the tough times.
  • It may be that the death of your second parent brings back memories of the death of your first and suddenly all the feelings you experienced then come back to make the new loss doubly hard.
  • Sometimes too, the death of a parent has the effect of opening up the memories of other past, painful losses, and all the hurtful feelings stored with them.
  • With the death of the second parent the opportunity to find out more about your personal and family history is lost too, and this may cause you further distress.
  • However you are feeling, it is important to understand that grief is like a journey, and each person’s journey will be a very different, individual and personal experience. It is normal to experience strong feelings and it takes time to work through those feelings.

    Coping with the death of a parent

    Others have found some of the following helpful:

    • Talking to a caring friend, pastor or counsellor.
    • Joining a bereavement support group.
    • Reading books on grief, especially when they are about the death of a parent.
    • Writing letters to your parent/parents to express your feelings or as a way of saying goodbye.
    • Keeping a journal as a record of your own journey of grief.
    • Making a 'Memory Book' of photos and mementos, lighting a candle on special occasions, planting a tree or shrub in their memory, visiting special places of significance.
    • Remember to maintain your self-care activities at this difficult time.
    • Be patient, tolerant and gentle with yourself as you grieve. It is important to seek professional help when you feel overwhelmed by your grief or memories. No one has to bear it all alone. There is help available.
    • Page last updated 25th August, 2016