Losing a Parent: A Guide to Coping and Finding Community

There are millions of adult orphans in the US, with the average age that someone loses their parents being between 50-55 years old.

While there is much literature focusing on the plight of child orphans, guidance for adults is harder to come by.

Losing a parent at any age is highly traumatic for a number of reasons. If you’re dealing with the loss of a parent, here’s how you can cope and find a sense of community in your bereavement.

Recognizing the Reality of Losing a Parent

Dealing with the death of a parent can feel like nothing at all at first. Accepting the reality of the situation sometimes takes weeks, if not months.

Knowing that you’ll never see your parents again is an immense realization, which takes time to come about.

Be patient with yourself and accept that you might not be flooded with emotions right away.

Know What Emotions to Expect

Grief is so much more than pure sadness. The psychological effects of losing a parent are well-documented and very diverse.

You may feel sadness at first, but this will be followed by several other emotion which you need to be prepared for.

If your parent was sick for a long time before death, you’ll likely feel a sense of relief. This is completely natural and nothing to feel guilty about.

You may also feel anger at the situation and a feeling that you didn’t do enough to prevent the loss.

This is extremely common and it takes time to accept the things you ultimately cannot control. Embrace the full spectrum of emotions as a natural part of a lengthy grieving process.

There is No “Correct” Way to Grieve

The grieving process after death of a parent is not a linear one. People who have been in similar situations may tell you what the “correct” way to mourn and grieve is.

The truth is that everyone’s relationship with their parents is complex and unique. As such, your grief may find outlets that others find conventional.

Just remember that the grieving process is an incredibly personal and often private one.

If a form of grieving doesn’t feel natural to you, then don’t put yourself through it.

The more time you spend focusing on what is the “proper” way to grieve, the less time you’ll spend on the healing process.

Find an Outlet for Your Grief

Losing your father or mother is undeniably a source of trauma. As with all forms of trauma, you’ll need an outlet to express your feelings. This can take many forms.

You might find that throwing yourself into funeral preparations is a reliable outlet for your grief.

You may want to channel your feelings into writing or start seeing a therapist. Perhaps re-connecting with your spirituality will help you cope, or talking to loved ones about your feelings.

Whatever you do, don’t attempt to bottle your feelings up in the hopes that they will disappear, as they won’t.

Seek Support

Losing a parent is something you can’t get through alone. You’ll need support and concrete resources to help you cope. If you’re in need of help and community to see you through this difficult time, make sure to consult our Resources for Grief section for all of the support you’ll need.