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Effects of a Parent’s Death and When to Seek Help

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

The weight of loss may never go away but we must learn how to carry it.

The death of a parent is one of the hardest things one can experience in life. It is inevitable, and everyone goes through it at some point, unfortunately. Grieving over a parent’s death is the mirror of the connection that is lost. Losing a parent means losing part of our childhood and emotional support, a part of oneself that may feel unrepairable and irreplaceable.

Upon the death of a parent, many people begin experiencing the stages of grief. This stage comes in different forms, but the most common are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Studies show that losing a parent can bring long-term emotional, mental health issues and even drug addiction. It is the main reason why emotional support is vital during bereavement as well as consistent surrogate parenting if the children are still young. Studies show that this is the case especially when the one who passes is the mother. Grief therapy is essential for the child to express their feelings and assure them that there is someone to talk to when grief occurs again. In addition to this, children of all ages can suffer from physical symptoms of grief. Physical symptoms experienced by both children and adolescents include weakness, low energy, dry mouth, and shortness of breath.

The loss of a parent before adulthood has an extreme effect on the rest of that person’s life. The loss has various impacts on adult personality development, a sense of security, and relationships with the surviving parent and siblings. For adolescents who are dealing with death and pain for the first time, they can experience overwhelming emotions related to grief.

To help adolescents understand the grieving process, the people around them need to normalize the range of emotions that they may experience. Prepare them for the shift and sudden change in emotions and allow them to experience their emotions. Let them explore various coping strategies based on their strengths and personalities. Offer different activities as well as counseling, support groups, and workshops to enable them to focus on other things.

For an adult, when a parent passes, many feel that it is expected for them to easily accept the loss. People may put pressure on the bereaver to get over the grief quickly, to get through it with ease. But grieving is a process that can be complex for all ages. The feeling of losing someone is not lessened because you are an adult. Each loss has its effect, physically, emotionally, and psychologically no matter what age. Many people who experience the loss of a parent as adults are also parents themselves at the time, so they have the added responsibility to support their children who also lost a grandparent. Supporting a child to speak about their grandparents and keeping them in their memory will reduce the anxiety.

At this point, the emotional support of friends and families is essential, as well as seeking professional help to avoid long lasting impact of grief, depression and possible resurfacing of trauma. The resurfacing of trauma is possible when the relationship with the parent was difficult or challenging, or other complex life experiences during childhood.

Therapy and seeking professional advice can aid people to talk openly about their sadness, remorse, frustrations, regrets and learn how to overcome these emotions slowly. A family counselor/therapist plays an important part. Parent death can bring back memories of resentment and can change a family's dynamic. A family counselor can help address these conflicts and suggest healthier ways to bring back harmony within the family. The recovery stages after the death of one's parent involve allowing yourself to go through the pain of loss, which slowly leads to the acceptance of the reality of your loss and finding ways to re-engage with life goals and purpose.

Self-care plays a vital role in healing after a loss. Find the time to take good care of yourself by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, exercising, and taking the time to grieve and heal appropriately at your phase.

Be patient with yourself and your grieving family. It is a personal process, and one that should be seen as having a finish line. Seek personal and professional support during these times, because nobody has to go through it alone.

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