This page is about losing a parent as an adult. For losing a parent as a child, click here.
“Losing a parent is like losing a part of oneself”
by Elizabeth Postle, RN, HV, FWT
In what we consider to be the great scheme of life, it is a natural progression to lose a parent. Part of the slings and arrows of life's misfortunes.
Fate determines the life span we are able to share with them. Recently two dear distant relatives died aged 97 years. My dear parents had been dead over 40 years by then, seemingly a lifetime ago.
Society doesn't really expect adults to have a strong reaction to the loss of a parent. After all, it happens to everyone and is expected, especially if they are aging. However, as the quote above states, a parent is a huge part of oneself whatever age you lose them.
We are still someone's children until our parents die, so their deaths mark our final passage into adulthood.
We might also lose our connection to our childhood home or familiar surroundings that we are used to visiting and feeling safe. For those who have children, there is great sadness that the grandparents are no longer around to see the children grow up.
So, parent loss is very great, especially with only children and those who never married.
It is always a
major loss and difficult to cope with whether the relationship was
good or bad. The parent-child relationship is strong.
When you have had a loving, friendly, happy relationship with your parent, their passing will create feelings of emotional turmoil and despair. Feelings we all experience after the death of someone we love very much.
As well as the loss of their physical presence, there is also the loss of their advice, support, help, knowledge and counselling in times of life's stresses.
There is a very special bond between parents and children. To lose one's parents is a traumatic time in life no matter what age they may be at the time; no matter what relationship you had with them.
Often you may find you don't get much sympathy if you lose a parent who lived a long life and died in old age, as people expect it to happen. But losing a parent after so many years of closeness is no less difficult. Read more from Irene Renzenbrink about her loss of her mother at 95 years of age.
The shock, numbness and pain of the loss is no less, even if the relationship was not as good as you would have liked it to be. Losing a parent with whom you had a difficult relationship can be complicated, with feelings of guilt, blame and regret to contend with.
Though some people do feel relief that they can get on with their lives if their parent was violent or neglectful. In spite of that, there is still regret that the relationship was not better.
If the relationship has been feisty, detached or difficult, perhaps between two individuals who were so alike they usually ended up moody with each other, there comes into the mix a huge amount of guilt. There is sadness that the relationship was not as good as you would have liked it to be, plus the sense of loss that there is no longer the opportunity to put it right.
If you had a relationship like that, then forgive yourself. You were only one part of that relationship and can't take total responsibility, especially since you were the child, not the responsible adult.
Many close relationships have a love-hate balance in them. If you were indifferent, you'd not be grieving or worried about what you did or didn't do. What you said or didn't say.
The pathways of bereavement are difficult enough, don't burden yourself with more imaginary wrongs. Your parent probably knew you and understood you better than you did yourself.
Elizabeth Postle had a varied and fulfilling nursing career, culminating in running her own high dependency hospice. She is the author of this website. Read more about her here.
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