Losing a parent can be an incredibly difficult and painful experience. For many people, a parent is not only a caregiver and source of emotional support but also a role model, guide, and anchor in their lives. When a parent passes away, it can feel like a foundational piece of your life has been ripped away, leaving a profound sense of loss and emptiness.The loss of a parent is a deeply personal and emotional experience, no matter your age (or your parent’s when the loss occurs). Grief at any age often incites emotions that are difficult to make sense of and can sometimes lead to depression when left untreated. If you’ve recently lost a parent or loved one, continue reading to learn five ways that will help you cope and how grief therapy could be beneficial.

There is No Right Way to Grieve

While you’ve likely heard it before, it bears repeating that everyone's experience of losing a parent is unique, and there is no "right" way to grieve. It's essential to give yourself permission to feel your emotions and seek support from others if needed. Many people find comfort in connecting with others who have experienced a similar loss, seeking counseling, or finding other healthy ways to cope with their grief.Some people say that grief is just love with nowhere to go. Still, while grief is a normal and expected course to go through, your experience is entirely unique. Losing a parent is one of the most difficult and life-changing challenges you can go through. However, the pain you feel now will become less intense with time. “Love and Grief are a package deal when we are here on earth”


David Kessler



Beyond the Stages: 5 Ways to Handle Grief Right Now

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler are considered experts in the study of grief. They developed a model of the different stages people go through when they lose someone dear to them. The stages you go through in your grief process will not be linear, but rather, they are more like ingredients that make up the flavor of grief. While these stages may be helpful to give you language to talk about your loss, our aim is to share 5 simple reminders that will help you center on your experience and the support you need in the early days of your loss.

1. How you feel is normal

It’s important to remember that grief is a normal and natural response to losing someone you love. It’s a process that will take time and everyone goes through grief differently. Some people will feel sadness and others may feel anger or even physical pain. You may even struggle with tasks and responsibilities that once felt manageable. It's common to experience feelings of loneliness, even if you have supportive family and friends around you, and you may feel like you're navigating uncharted territory.It’s important to be easy on yourself as you experience waves of emotions and cope with this incredibly difficult loss. All your feelings are normal and it’s important to allow yourself to feel them. Grief may last forever, but it doesn’t mean that it always continues with pain. You can also grieve with love.

2.There is no timeline you should follow

It’s common to wonder how long it will take to move through grief, but it’s important to keep in mind that there is no perfect timeline you must follow. Each person’s process is unique and individual to them. Sometimes, we want to move as quickly as possible through something that is difficult, and we end up judging ourselves harshly when we don’t meet our expectations. However, grief doesn’t come with a prize for getting through the finish line the fastest. Instead, grief is a process, similar to something we practice each day. Every day will bring new learnings and challenges, but you are building up a new framework on how to live your life now that it has changed.

3. Avoid comparison

There is no one size fits all when it comes to grief. Each person’s grieving process is going to look and feel a little bit different. Keep this in mind if you find yourself comparing your grief to someone else’s process and think you should be handling your grief differently. You will cope better when you walk your own path at your own pace and allow yourself to feel everything that your loss conjures. Some people may want to talk about their loss, while others may prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. It’s essential to focus on what you need and do what feels right for yourself. Remember that your grief is valid, regardless of how it may look compared to how someone else is coping.

Even your own timeline of grief may surprise you, whether the visceral feelings of loss last longer than anticipated or grow stronger in certain seasons. Grief is a complex and multifaceted emotion that can be triggered unexpectedly even years after a loss. While the intensity and frequency of the pain may lessen over time, the sense of loss and the memories associated with it may persist. It is important to acknowledge that grief is a normal and natural response to loss, and seeking support from loved ones or a mental health professional can help individuals navigate through the grieving process.

4. Get support from in-office or online grief therapy

Grief can be isolating. Sometimes, you may also experience confusion or numbness. This can be a normal response to loss and is referred to as shock or dissociation. When left unaddressed, grief can lead to depression or in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as complex grief. Complex grief is characterized by intense and persistent feelings of longing, yearning, and sadness that do not decrease over time. Similar to PTSD, individuals with complex grief may experience difficulty accepting the loss, have intrusive thoughts or memories about the deceased, and may avoid situations that remind them of the loss, all symptoms that can interfere with daily functioning.

Sharing your feelings with a trusted other can help you feel less alone and can provide comfort during this difficult time. If you are struggling with coping, consider getting the support of a therapist that specializes in grief who can walk with you through your process.

5. Honor their memory

Grief is not only about coping with loss, it’s also about coping with change. This may mean you will need to express your emotions through allowing yourself to cry, taking time to yourself, journaling, or engaging in activities that bring you happiness. Some people feel better when others around them still talk about their loved one and use their name. This helps them feel like they are still with them and are maintaining a connection even though they are no longer here physically. You may also think about honoring their memory through keeping certain traditions that were important to you both. You may consider beginning traditions that represent something they loved, such as going to a baseball game of their favorite team, ordering a meal at their favorite restaurant, or making a quilt from items of their clothing. Whatever way you decide to cope with your loss, be sure to honor them in a way that makes sense for you and your loved one.




What if you didn’t have a great relationship with your parent before they died?

Losing a parent with whom you did not have a good relationship can be an incredibly complicated and difficult experience. It can bring up a range of emotions, including anger, guilt, regret, and sadness. You may feel like you never had the chance to reconcile or make things right with your parent, which can be incredibly difficult to come to terms with.

The experience can be further complicated depending on how your parent died. If their death was unexpected, it can be difficult to process the shock and suddenness of the loss. If you were their caregiver, the experience of loss can be even more complex, as you may have been intimately involved in their care and well-being leading up to their death. On the other end of the spectrum, if the aging process or COVID regulations or an illness caused distance in the relationship before their passing, you may be feeling many conflicted emotions.

If you did not have the chance to say goodbye or reconcile with your parent before they passed away, this can also add another layer of difficulty to the grieving process. You may find yourself struggling with feelings of guilt or regret, wishing you had done things differently or said things you never got the chance to say.

Each of these factors can make grieving the loss of a parent incredibly individualized and challenging to face. As a son or daughter, your parent’s death will inspire many existential questions about who you are, the quality of your relationships, and the sense of meaning in your life. Having the support of others who can understand and empathize with your experience can be incredibly helpful in navigating this difficult time.




Begin Grief Counseling in Seattle, Washington

The grief that comes from losing a parent can be intense and long-lasting. Even if your relationship with your parent was a complicated one, it’s likely that you will feel difficult emotions after their passing. This is completely understandable. Working with one of our Seattle therapists who specialize in grief and loss can help you navigate your way through coping with this difficult loss. If you are a Washington resident and have been struggling with loss, reach out to one of our therapists today for in-person or online grief therapy.