Grieving the Loss of a Parent
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Grieving the Loss of a Parent



What does it feel like to lose a parent?


To start, it will greatly depend on the relationship you had with your parent. Did you have a really close relationship with them, or were you more distant? Were they a part of your everyday interactions or did they live far away? This information is important because the nature of your relationship can greatly impact HOW you grieve. However, no matter the relationship, or lack thereof, it is grief, which means it is messy and often at times incredibly painful. If that is where you are now, don’t be alarmed or ashamed, you are likely in the right place. 



What are the stages of Grief when losing a parent? 


The 5 stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are accompanied by a variety of emotions, which often add to the messiness of a person’s grieving process. Keep in mind it is not uncommon to feel many emotions at the same time nor is it uncommon to bounce between stages, especially at the beginning of the healing process.



Can you get over the loss of a parent?


Get over? Let’s rephrase, Can you heal, feel joy and live your life to the fullest -YES. Can you have meaningful relationships while still remembering and missing your loved one – YES. Like any experience, a loss of a parent shapes who you are as a person, similarly to how they shaped who you are in this very moment. The goal is not to get over it, but rather to feel, process and heal. 




How do I deal with the loss of a parent?


Simply put, you feel your feelings, you find support, and you process the messiness of your loss. Navigating the process of losing a parent is often complicated. So, if you feel out of your depth or like you don’t know where to turn, again, don’t be alarmed, you likely just need some support and maybe someone to help guide you through the process




How do I accept the loss of a parent?


You intentionally and slowly work your way through the grieving process. A mistake that a lot of people make is to think you can speed up or skip steps all together. It is healthiest and, most often, time saving to lean in and do the work. Allow yourself the time and space to feel the feelings and talk about it with someone. This process can be emotionally draining and difficult, but over time, if done with intention, the waves of intense emotions will become less intense and further apart.




Can the loss of a parent cause PTSD?


Yes, research has shown that depending on the circumstances surrounding a person’s death, a surviving loved one can develop PTSD. The way that shows up in your life may vary considerably depending on you and the circumstances. If this is a concern you have, definitely seek out a mental health professional



How can loss of a parent affect self-concept?


When losing a parent, often people don’t consider how the loss may impact how they feel about themselves. Losing a parent has been shown to lead to increased feelings of vulnerability which often leads to increased isolation. What might that look like and why is it significant? Well, when someone loses a parent it is not uncommon for them to feel frequent and unexpected waves of sadness. While experiencing these waves, a person is more likely to cancel plans with friends, less likely to reach out to a partner or even be less likely to seek out therapy.



This lack of connection with others can make a person’s sadness worse and result in feelings of guilt, low self worth and even self hatred. After all, what a person longs for when they are struggling is connection and empathy, in the absence of that it is difficult to feel loved and in turn, to love oneself. 



How to deal with losing a parent at a young age?


First, remember to be gentle with yourself. Losing a parent at any age is hard, but it happening when you are young can make it a bit more confusing because you are already experiencing so many developmental changes. Second, reach out to someone. Research shows that communicating your feelings, whatever they are in the moment, helps a lot! And third, challenge yourself to continue to do things that make you happy.


Like what you might ask? Try going and spending time with your friends, see a movie. Do something that reminds you there is life outside of your grief. This third piece may seem unimportant or ‘selfish’ at first, but experiencing the joy that life has to offer can help balance out that intense sadness that accompanies grieving. 




How to deal with losing a parent in your 20s?


Losing a parent when you are in your 20’s presents unique challenges, because it is a transitional time in your life. You are finding out who you are, what you want your purpose to be, who you want to date/be in a relationship with etc. So, above all else, make sure you allow yourself the time to feel your feelings and just ‘not be ok’. In today’s society it is often frowned upon to take time for yourself, but it is essential when grieving. Take time, find support (family, friends, grief support group, therapist) and remember, it takes time. Grief is messy but finding support can make all the difference. 



How to deal with losing a parent as an adult?


Grieving a parent as an adult can stir up a lot of different emotions. Research has shown that losing a parent during adulthood often results in questioning one’s own mortality and can stir up questions and concerns about the trajectory of your own life. If this is where you are now, don’t panic. You are not alone and it is often a normal part of the grieving process. Be sure to reach out to your current support system to process your feelings and questions.



References: Grieving the Death of a Parent can be a life-changing experience. (

International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies: Reflections of a Young Adult on the Loss of a Parent in Adolescence

Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy: Time Does Not Heal All Wounds: Mortality Following the Death of a Parent

Omega – Journal of Grief and Dying: Concurrent Treatment for PTSD and Prolonged Grief Disorder: Review of Outcomes for Exposure- and Nonexposure-Based Treatments

Omega – Journal of Grief and Dying: Fear of Death and Death Acceptance Among Bereaved Adults: Associations With Prolonged Grief

Science Direct: Bereavement Stressors and Psychosocial Well-Being of Young Adults Following the Loss of a Parent – A cross-sectional survey




Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals.  However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.






Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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