The loss of a parent is the most common form of bereavement, and even as adults, we are seldom ready for the death of a mother or father. Regardless of our relationship with our parents, we will always be their children. Whether one is ready for it or not, the death of a parent can bring many losses and changes. Who else will remember the first words you spoke, or the way you used to sleep holding your teddy bear? There are typically other losses, too, such as the long-term friendship of adult child and parent, the helpful advice, the emotional support during hard times, and the parent’s home where numerous holidays and celebrations have taken place. It is not unusual for some people to express feelings of being orphaned when a parent dies. Often the most daunting change upon the death of our parents is the realization that we have now become the older generation. The death of a parent brings a keen reminder of your own mortality-—a shock that often promotes a healthy reevaluation of one’s life and values.
Don’t deny your grief or run away from it. Accept that you are grieving and allow yourself to be open to your feelings in the present moment. Know that it’s okay to cry, to be angry at your loss, and to enjoy the fond memories you have. What’s most important is to let yourself genuinely feel and express your unique experience of grief, to follow your heart and be true to yourself. Sometimes a counselor can be helpful when creating a life without a parent or parents.
Adapted with permission from GriefWorks, Sam Quick, Professor Emeritus, Human Development and Family Relations Specialist, Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.