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

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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  • Melissa L Stewart

    My dad died on July 27, 2012 from stage 4 melanoma and pulmonary embolisms caused by his chemo. It was very fast, very sudden, and extremely heartbreaking. I still grieve every single day. Thank you for sharing your story! It’s helped me so much feel less alone.

  • Veronica Leone

    My mom died of pancreatic cancer when I was 18. That was almost 7 years ago, but some days it feels like yesterday. I look forward to all the things I will do in my own life because of how she raised me, but I’m sad not to have her here with me to share the moments to come. Thank you for sharing your story and putting words to what we feel.

  • Samantha Homan

    My mom died on July 7, 2013, eight weeks after she was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer and a week after her first chemo treatment. It was sudden, unexpected and absolutely heartbreaking. And you’re right, I wake up every morning and for just a second, I forget she’s gone, but then it hits me, and I know the pain will never go away. It’s comforting to know that there are others who are experiencing the same. Thank you for sharing your stories.

  • Joanna Cook

    I lost my Dad in 2010 when he was only 54 and I was only 22. He had Myeloma cancer. He was given 6 years and only lasted 6 months. I was there when he died and tried to save him. I’ll never get over it, sometimes I do want to talk about it but I feel I don’t want to depress people. Great article, nice to know I’m not alone.

  • Diana Martinez

    This is what scares me the most: losing my mom. I have thought about it and it hurts. I am leaving to Spain in a week and thinking about not seeing her braks my heart. My mom is my life. I rather die before her but thinking the pain that could cause to her also hurts. I am affraid to lose her and never recover.
    When I lost my grandma, who I was so close to, I felt lost and still do, think about her every day and cry when I need. But losing my mom is going to be my death inside.
    Sorry for your lost.

  • Allana Reoch
  • Karla Khodanian

    I lost my dad so suddenly just 3 months ago. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about it. I can’t even take his number out of my iPhone’s favorites list because I hate accepting the fact that I can never call him again. It’s not fair that I can never hug him, or talk to him, or hear him say he’s proud of me just once more. Some days I’m angry, some days I’m sad and some days I’m happy and inspired by the strength of my mother and siblings. But you’re right- no one knows this feeling until it happens to them. Thank you so much for writing this.

    • Allana Reoch
    • Jill Layton

      I’ve done the same thing with my iPhone’s favorite list. It’s strange the little things we do for comfort.

    • Kyndra Connor

      I lost my mother almost 6 months ago now – I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m doing anything right and reading this has helped. My days are okay – sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed. My motivation seems to be lacking and I’ve definitely let myself do whatever I feel like in hopes of temporarily feeling better. The nights are hard – it’s usually right before sleep that I think of her and cry. Sob, is actually a better word. I know I’m not alone, but it sure does feel like it. No one asks if I’m okay. No one wants to sit down and talk. I’m afraid to bring it up – I don’t want anyone to think I’m dwelling. I just want to share a funny story about something we did together or that she used to do without getting those ‘sad’ eyed looks back, or making the room suddenly go quiet. I just wish people would stop tiptoeing around me. I just want someone to ask how I am, if I miss her and let me talk without being weird and afraid of upsetting me. I am currently and forever upset – asking me if I’m okay won’t make it any worse.

  • Samantha Brook Johnston

    Jill – this was a great post. I especially love how you talk about grief stages not coming in order and that everyone grieves differently. I have lost uncles and friends but until I lost my dad, I didn’t understand the vast differences of grieving. My dad committed suicide almost 3 years ago and the grief is something that I never could have imagined. Stages of grief were more like waves and the worst, for me, was the numbness, because you just want to feel something. Thank you for this post and I’m very sorry for your loss. I’m dreading the day I lose my mom and don’t even want to imagine what that grief will be like.

    • Jill Layton

      Thank you. I’ve very sorry for your loss as well.

  • Ju Li

    I lost my dad – completely unexpected – to a heart attack in 2011 and I still miss him loads and think about him every single day. In certain situations I find myself thinking “He would’ve loved this” and sometimes I even smile at it. But honestly, it pains me so much that he is never going to get to walk me down the aisle when I get married one day or see his grandkids. :-(

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, I literally cried reading this article. I agree with the others that it is nice to know you are not alone in you grief. Because, no matter how well your friends (and other people comforting you) might mean, they can never truly understand how you’re feeling if they haven’t experienced the loss of a parent.

  • Kaye Morgan

    When my Daddy was found to have cancer in his one remaining lung I just kept thinking that my identity was going to change. I would now be a person who had lost a parent. A member of the club that Christina on Grey’s Anatomy referred to as the Dead Dad Club,, I believe. It’s selfish, I know, but if I thought about how scared my Father was it would tip me over the edge. My Daddy died in 2002 and I went from the irresponsible baby of the family to the caregiver for my Mom and my alcoholic middle sister. It really is amazing what you can do when push comes to shove.. In 2006, the night our Mom died, my 2 older sisters and I looked at each other and said in unison “now we are orphans”. The years go by and the stages of grief for both of them still pop up with no warning. The loss of a parent changes you to your core and I just hope that change was for the better. Jill – thank you for a lovely and obviously thought provoking piece!

  • Rae Fletcher

    I lost my mom in September to complications with cancer treatment. It hurts. A lot. She had so much life left to live, it’s hard to believe some days that she’s not here anymore. I found, though, that blogging about it helped a lot. Having an outlet for your grief is so helpful. Great job, Jill. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Tess Jenkins

    My dad died 4 months ago today. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and the pain is immeasurable. Sometimes it all feels like a really bad dream.

  • Kellie Coutts

    I am reading this article with tears streaming down my face. My Mum died two months ago, unexpectedly, in her sleep. She was only 59. The total disbelief I am feeling is overwhelming. Everyday I go to ring her, and then fall apart. Sometimes I am do angry, at the world, and at her for dieing. Other times I am buried under a weight of sadness that is unbearable. My dad lives overseas, and my sister and I have a very difficult relationship, so it often feels like I am struggling through alone. My husband is trying, but can’t quite grasp how deep the feelings of loss go. I feel as though I am broken on some fundamental level. It is really good to read this article, and all the comments, and see that I’m not so alone after all. We will live through this pain, and do our parents proud

  • Jamileh Taleb

    I could not have explained it any better ( I think I used some of these exact sentences once or twice actually) Thank you for sharing and doing so in a way that helps others slightly understand the process of what we have gone through.

  • Clementina Morales

    I don’t think anything has ever put how I feel in words so well. I lost my mom two years ago and everything that is mentioned in this piece is how I feel. From knowing that she will never be at my wedding or that I can’t pick up the phone to call her when something exciting happens to me. Being the only daughter changed my role in my family also. I have a younger brother who was just about to start his final year of college a week before she passed and I had to find myself taking on a mother/sister role. I never planned on having kids but all the sudden I found myself at 29 with a 22 year old kid. My brother and I always said “Mom taught us everything we’ve ever needed to know. Now we just have to go use it”.

  • Jill Layton

    I’m so touched that my article has reached so many of you. Your comments are heartfelt, sad and lovely. Thank you for sharing. It’s like group therapy! But with our fingers.

  • Lisa Seagraves

    I lost my mom almost 4 yrs ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday. A very good read!

  • Chelsea Keesler

    I lost my dad in September last year, and I agree with your article. There are times when I hear his voice in my head so loudly that it’s almost as if he’s standing right next to me. We had a tough, strained relationship, but as an adult, I made the effort to see him on a regular basis, forgive him, and love him the way he was. We never had an official reconciliation; he never said he was sorry, and I never explained any anger or hurt he caused. I did assure him that I didn’t hate him, though, when he said he thought I must after I first started contacting him again. Not everyone gets the chance to forgive, or mend their relationship with a parent/parents before they die, so I consider myself very fortunate. If you haven’t forgiven someone you love, make it happen. It probably won’t happen over night, but the process is worth it. If you get the chance to tell them about it, take it.

  • Danyun Qiu

    I lost my mom 3 years ago and it still hurts everyday, I feel your pain, thanks for the article.

  • Jessica Kidner

    My Mother’s Father is about to die and I showed my Mum this article. She’s been being very strong at the moment and just getting on with things, but when she read this, she just cried. Mum’s needed this release for her grief for a very long time, so thank you. I appreciate it. I could never imagine what it would be like to lose her.

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