Losing a Parent as an Adult

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”

Debra Umberson

Meme - Losing a parent is like losing a part of oneself. Debra Umberson

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. 

See also helping children cope with the death of parents

Our parents know us better than we know ourselves. Meme with seascape.

Our parents are usually the only ones who have known us since we were born.  Often they know us better than we know ourselves.

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.

Losing a parent is always a major loss

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. 

Learn how to cope with losing a parent here. 

Losing a parent with whom you had a difficult relationship

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.

It was still a special relationship so forgive yourself.

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.  

Where to get help: 

Have You Considered One-on-One Online Grief Counseling? 

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Hypnosis for Grief - 10 Ways It Can Help You

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.  

Read more about it here. 

Recommended Read: 

Related Pages:

How to Cope with Losing a Parent

Best Books on the Loss of a Parent

Support for the Loss of a Mother

Grieving the Loss of my 95 Year Old Mother by Irene Renzenbrink

Grieving the Loss of a Mother on Mother's Day

A Moving Article about Healing from Loss of a Mother

A Son's Thoughts on the Loss of His Father

Loss of the Family Home

Helping Children Cope with Losing a Parent.

What I Learned from Losing My Father at a Young Age

"I Lost My Dad" by Julie Nierenberg

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