Chapter 4: When your parent dies
If you are or were a young adult when your parent dies
My dad died two years ago when I was 25. I got married this year, and it was both incredibly happy and sad, at the same time. I had a picture of him hidden in my bouquet the entire day.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to know you are going to die or what must have been going through my mother’s mind. I asked her once, “Are you afraid of dying?” She said, “No, I’m afraid of leaving you.”
Part of maturing and becoming your own person includes independence from your parents. It’s not uncommon to think, behave, or express opinions that separate you from your parents or cause conflict with them as you develop your own values, priorities, and personality.
When your parent has died and is no longer there to witness milestones, such as your graduation, career advancement, first home purchase, or birth of a baby, it may add a layer of sadness to what should be a joyful time in your life. This is normal and may make these special moments bittersweet.
In addition to feeling sad, you might also experience other feelings. Click on each one to explore more.
You might think, “I wish I had (or hadn’t) done or said that.”
You might feel that you somehow let your parent down or hurt them.
You might miss your parent, or you might feel your friends are treating you differently.
You might wonder how your life will now be different – “Who can I turn to when I need help or guidance?”
You might think, “Why did my parent have to die now?”
If they were seriously ill, you might feel grateful that their suffering has ended.
Grief can be isolating at any time, but it can be even more so when you are young. This is because you may be the only one in your group of friends who has experienced losing a parent, or experienced death at all. Your friends may not know how to support you. You might feel upset when you hear friends or acquaintances complaining about their parents.
The people who care about you want to be supportive, but they may need some guidance from you as to what is, and isn’t, helpful.
What may help
Allow yourself to have whatever feelings come up.
Notice if some emotions are harder than others, and remind yourself that all your feelings are a normal part of grieving.
Remember that your grief will resurface, sometimes when you least expect it.
Seek support from friends or family who will listen and accept your feelings.