For Anyone Who Has Lost a Parent or Will Lose a ParentJill Layton

I don’t want to ruin your day or anything, but let’s discuss something really sad, because sometimes life stuff is sad. A lot of the time, actually. Sad things happen, and I think it’s important to talk about them.

Our parents are going to die. Not right this second (I’m not predicting a parent apocalypse), but eventually they will die. They will die before we do (unless something goes terribly wrong, but let’s not make this any sadder). It’s just the way time works. They’re older. They die first. That’s how they want it, and that’s how it should be. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

By now, most of us have lost someone close to us, so we can imagine how awful it is to lose a parent. But until it happens to you, you won’t fully understand the gravity of the awfulness. And that’s okay. Not understanding is not feeling the pain, and living without the pain is something we should be entitled to do for as long as we can. The pain of waking up every morning and for a split second, forgetting that part of your heart and soul isn’t here anymore, and then remembering is awful. Part of who you are and where you come from is gone. No new memories will ever be made with your parent again.

When something really great happens to you, like when you get married, or have a baby or win a Nobel Peace Prize (or a fun prize in one of those claw arcade games), the person who would care the most isn’t here to be proud of you. If something really bad happens to you, your first instinct is to call your mom or dad for support, but you can’t. Their phone has been disconnected. When your parent dies, you instantly lose the feeling of being connected to your childhood and where you come from. You can no longer ask questions about your family history, medical questions or how to do life questions. No one will ever love us in the same unconditional way our parents have loved us. The pain of losing a parent never goes away, you just learn to live with it.

Everyone grieves differently and in their own way, but ultimately, our feelings are universal. There are different stages of grief, but they don’t happen in order. One day you may feel angry or depressed, and the next day you may think, “If only I did something differently, she’d still be alive.”. Maybe the next day you accept that he’s gone, then five minutes later a memory pops up and you can’t stop crying. There isn’t one correct way of grieving (like there is one correct way of eating an Oreo). If you want to stay home to be alone with your thoughts, then do it. If going out with friends helps you feel better, then go. However you are grieving is how you’re supposed to be grieving.

I’m not a grief expert, but I know that I’m not alone in wanting to talk about it. My mom died two years ago. It was sudden and terrible. I’m still grieving, and I always will be. And you will grieve too, if you aren’t already. But we will be okay, because we have to be. Our lives continue without them. As hard and as heart breaking as it is, we don’t have a choice. Our parents did everything they could to prepare us for being on our own. Not just living in a different home or city, but living when they no longer are. Doing life the way they prepared us to. And as long as we feel like they’d be proud of us, then we’re doing it right.

This post is dedicated to my mom, Margie Silver, and to all the moms and dads who are greatly missed.


.Featured image via ShutterStock

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  • Natural death

    Thanks for sharing this, Jill. My pop is dying and I’m so grieved. Just looking for hope of being able to get on and it seems so impossible right now. I’ll do as my dad taught me though and keep trucking.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I love being able to read articles like this that I can relate to.
    My mother died when I was 15, a freshman in high school. She was killed by a family friend and it pretty much shattered my world. I took on new responsibilities with my brother, learning how to cook, clean properly etc. During everything, I was grateful for my dad. He was extremely supportive. He may have worked a whole lot, but came to all my home volleyball games, senior nights, was there to take photos before Prom, even planned my 16th and 18th birthday parties. He was defiantly dad of the year. My mom may not have been there to teach me about makeup, hair and other things that moms do but my dad made up for it. He was the greatest.
    In 2006, I went to college, my dad and grandparents drove me and dropped me off. I had a blast while I was in school. I didn’t go home as often as I would have liked due to my jobs but I talked to my dad and grandparents a few times a week. In 2011, I moved to California for almost a year, I ended up moving back because my dad was sick. We talked a lot during my time in California so I knew when something was wrong. He told me not to move back to Florida but I did anyway.
    When I returned, I found out more.The doctors found a lump called a sarcoma in my dads throat and it was a rare thing. Thanks to surgery and 5 months of radiation, my dad made it through. I knew he would. He was and always had been in great shape, eaten right and had the most positive attitude of anyone I had ever seen. In 2013, I got married to my husband and my dad helped with the most beautiful wedding. That would be the last time the entire family was together because in 2014, the sarcoma in his neck returned. He did chemo, radiation but he lost his battle in October, just 4 months ago.
    I cant tell you how many days at work, while driving, while going to sleep, I prayed so hard that my dad wouldn’t be taken too. I couldn’t loose both of my parents before I was even 28 years old and my brother 22. I couldn’t imagine a world where I didn’t call him or text him every day. I just couldn’t imagine it but now that’s my reality. Its hard not calling him on my way home from work, texting him throughout the day and hearing him do his silly voices over the phone.
    I will always grieve for my parents. There will be a lot they won’t be here for. I know this and I’m doing my best to accept it. I also know they will be there for me and my brother, just not in the way we would like. A lot of my parents have only lost their grandparents and as much as I hurt for them, I know the hurt is different. Thanks again so much for sharing your story, there aren’t a lot of articles like this out there. I appreciate it more than you know.

  • Pineapple

    MOM – Liver Cancer – Aug 27 2009 Dad – Sudden stroke – Aug 17th 2013.

    We decided to have our Wedding Aug 6th 2014, to make the month bitter sweet. i KNOW they were with us on that day prior the rainy days & possible rainy afternoon upon our big day that ended up clear blue sunny skies. I brought a piece of my Mom’s bouquet(the ribbon bow that was with it) & My Dad’s Santa bell’s as he had played Santa for MANY MANY YEARS! BTW it was an out door wedding so weather was a big thing! & hiking to the spot I rang my Dad’s bells & had my Sister walk me there because all I have left from MY first family is Her, My Niece My Aunt & other unfortunately long distant family. LOVE MY INLAWS but They all are far away as well! I was just getting into Lady Gaga in which I KNOW Mom & Dad would have loved cuz they were just that cool, but Mom didnt get to love her like Dad did, & when I got to see Gaga this summer I cried cuz I wished they were there with me besides my sister & niece. My wedding I ddint cry I knew they were there… like I said the weather! But yeah calling them complaining about work or goin to the mall with Dad just window shopping MAYBE being a spoiled lil girl, just always someone to always talk to no matter what time of day it was knowing they’ll always be there & now its gone. Yeah you can talk to them in a prayer but its just not the same. Hearing their voice via an old voice mail makes you want to hug them & just cry. but you gotta remain strong for yourself cuz life aint stopping for sadness. <3

    PS sorry for any typos I'm just open & talking from my heart. <3

  • Jessica

    My mom passed in 2008 to a stroke it was a long strung out sad way to watch her die and it’s something I just cannot get over then oct of 2013 my dad passed away to lung cancer he battled it for almost a year I had to watch both my parents die of slow agonizing sad deaths I don’t think I will ever be right again :,(

  • smileybat

    Firstly, thanks for sharing this and after reading the experiences narrated by all the commentors, i feel humbled. I am 42 and l lost my mum when I was 35 and my dad when i was 40. i wake up every few hours looking for them and then i relive the events. I accomplished a lot but still i feel that i have let them down. I hope I will find them. They are my home. Most of my adult life i lived in different countries for learning and researching, even so i search for them. I think they were proud of me but i wish i had told them that i loved them everyday. So for the youngsters here, can i just say i am sorry for the harshness and but it wouldnt make the pain any less even if one loses their parents a lot older or after achieving certain milestones in life. Perhaps i am being ungrateful. Life is like going to school and then my parents will pick me up. Then i will drink tea on top of a green hill and watch the rain with them contently at peace. But before that, i have lots to learn. I find this goal and feeling help me keep on going and i feel close to them. Maybe it will help someone get through ….

  • Jan Henry

    Such beautiful tributes to your parents. I lost my biological dad on my 2nd birthday, to renal failure, so I was too young to remember him. I lost my step dad to heart disease and my Marine Vet husband to PTSD. But by far…the most difficult has been taking care of my 85 year old mom who has dementia. Most days, I am already grieving for my mom. The person I turned to all of my life is now a confused, frightened person with the mentality of about a 2 year old. The roles have now reversed and I cannot tell you enough how sad it is to watch. She comes out of her bedroom numerous times each night afraid of things that aren’t there and I have to take her back and show her that it’s ok (just like I did for my children). I don’t know which is worse. Losing someone you love unexpectedly, which I have….or watching your mom slowly decline, forget everything she used to know, including who her family is. I just know that I so miss being able to share the special things in life with my mom or ask her how to do something. It’s tough but I’m determined to keep her at home until her time comes… with the help of a wonderful caregiver service who sits with her 4 hours a day so I can get things done. I’m very glad my kids, now adults, were able to grow up with their grandma. They’ve had a tough time with her not knowing who they are but I think deep within she knows. I love you mom.

  • Molly Keen

    I’m thinking of all of you that have endured this type of heartache. My mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on January 1 2014, and passed away on February 22nd 2014. Not a day goes by I don’t feel that pain of losing her. She was my rock, my heart, my everything. The type of mother that would do anything for anyone and nothing for herself because she was so selfless. No one deserves to have that heartache of losing a loved one like a parent. Everything you have said is so true, the pain never goes away it just because tolerable because that’s the only choice we have. I’ve struggled for the last almost year to come out of this state of depression. I’ve quit my job, moved, and tried to start over thinking that would help and I was so wrong. It took a long time but I’ve realized I can’t just waste my days away because I’m hurt and lost. I have to live everyday like my mother would. Three days before she passed, she said she has no regrets. Aside from missing my future wedding and seeing my sister and I grow older and have children of our own, she lived her life so fully and was so happy with how she spent her days. And that’s all we can ask for. They are with us, every second of every day. By our side when we’re facing trouble, and lifting us up and making us strong we when we don’t even realize it. I live for my mother now. After all, we have the most beautiful angels that could be. And what’s better than that? =)

  • kimmie

    I lost my mother five months ago and the pain hasnt even began to fade but I have to think she never wanted to have to cremate her child and shes watching me and I just hope shes proud of me.

  • Bill

    I lost my mom in 1992 and my dad in 1993. It still hurts so much. I wish I’d been a better son.

  • Allysob

    This post is so true. My siblings & I lost our Mama to breast cancer a little over a year ago. It metastasized into her liver & bones. She died an extremely painful death. Some days I feel okay, others I miss her so much I can barely breath. It is helpful to know there are others who know exactly how we feel.


    It was really good we don’t know the value of our parents until they are around us…. Bt Gish one they are not around us that’s the worst feeling ever nobody in this world can replace mum and dads love fa sure…. Though we are old enough one or the other suggestion does come from that side which definetly useful fa us….No matter what we are doing bt fa sure we do miss them….
    May all their souls REST IN PEACE!!!
    Good post thanks for that appreciate it.

  • Roman238

    I’ve lost both of mine (my dad almost 20 years ago), and my mom in 2005. I still feel the guilt that I did not do enough for her…because I didn’t. That just a sad fact that I must live with…that knowledge. I still have both of their ashes (I think they should be together), but I don’t know what to do with them. As if that’s not bad enough, although I made a few half-hearted, Rod McKuen-esque attempts, I never did reconnect with my “real” father, another loss I just have to live with. Sometimes, I find myself doing little things, like my stepfather (my dad), would always say, “And a pinch for the pot” when he made a pot of coffee. (I do the same thing everyday, I don’t know why…I just do.) Maybe we ARE still connected, after a fashion. I don’t know. And I have a couple of old cats that my mother would have just loved to death, and I spoil the heck out of them, just like she would have. Maybe that’s an attempt at some sort of connection, or closure…I don’t know. If any of my family is reading this, or does in the near future, we need to get together and decide what to do with Mom and Dad. I think we should bury them together in a place that they both loved…it’s the least we can do for them. In spite of everything, they always loved each other…and all of us.

  • E. D.

    “The pain of waking up every morning and for a split second, forgetting that part of your heart and soul isn’t here anymore, and then remembering is awful”…So, so true. I feel that pain every morning since my mom passed unexpectedly 10/20/14. Thank you to everyone who has shared their stories and to you, Jill, who so eloquently explained exactly what I have been feeling since Momma died. I have cried all day today as it would have been my Daddy’s 86th birthday (he passed 3/19/01) and my Mom used to say how she “missed her valentine”. Today I miss both of mine, for they were the loves of my life.
    Love and blessings to you all.

    • Jill Layton


  • Angie

    This made me cry Jill. Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to you. Sending a cyber hug.

  • Nicci Estrada

    This was great. I just lost my momin September and my dad two weeks ago. This was a comforting read

  • Katy Anstey

    I lost my mom to colon cancer two years ago. I usually stray away from these stories but this one drew me in. Thank you for writing it. Losing my mom was the hardest thing ever. You dont carry one though, you make a new life without them.. kinda like having a heart just outside your body. Its there always and loved but no longer.. I cant describe it. Still connected but gone… Im sure you understand.

  • lori scheller

    I haven’t lost my parents yet But I am so afraid that i wont be able to handle it when i do I fear it I worry about and dont know if I will be able to handle it, just missing them seeing them how can you never see someone you love like that ever again i don’t understand how this is possible, No people say they get thought it they have to but im not sure for all it is possible.

  • fu

    Sorry the name didn’t go thru.. its Chrissy…

  • fu

    Thank you for sharing, my mom died in October 2013 suddenly of septis and my dad died july of 2014.. I always had a strained relationship with my mom but we were close in our own way.. I was very close to my dad.. their deaths left me soo broken and empty..they were the only grandparents my kids knew and its been hard on them as well.. they are doing better now.. but me, I can’t seem to move on.. some days are better than others, but some days I just lay around wanting what was.. memories aren’t enough, they make me happy sometimes,but I want to hug and hear their voices again.. they both were soo much apart of our lives… it feels half of myself is missing.. I see a counselor now to help me and things are getting better day by day.. I just miss them sooo terribly…

  • Arian Aziz

    I lost my dad and mom in 11/2 apart , it’s the hardest thing happening to me, some days I feel to call mom then realize she is no longer here , I safed her voice mail I lessen to it . I drive by her house looking at her bedroom window , bring back old memories of mom and dad. No body in the care about you , I can not find that love through any one. Thank god I have amzing brother and sister. We share our feeling

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