Life Is Not the Same after Losing Your Parents

Although it's a fact of life, no one is prepared to lose their parents. We need to give ourselves time to adjust to this new situation, and devote the time necessary to do so.
Life Is Not the Same after Losing Your Parents
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

It’s a fact of life that children outlive their parents. However, just because losing your parents is natural doesn’t mean that it’s easy to accept. Whenever we have meaningful, warm and enriching family ties, any absence or separation becomes a source of suffering that is hard to cope with or come to terms with.

The loss of a parent leaves a void in our lives that can never be filled. However, we can learn to live with this hole, and ease the pain with good memories, photos and a legacy that we will forever keep in our hearts.

We’d like to invite you to reflect on this and to discover some strategies that can help you to face the difficulties that come with losing your parents.

No one is truly prepared for losing their parents

First, it’s important to note that the pain of this loss will be in line with the bond that you had with that parent. It doesn’t matter if you’re living far apart and raising a family of your own. The emotional bond forged with a loved one understands neither time nor distance.

On the inside, we’re still the same person that needs advice from our parents, a loving hug from our father, or our mother’s encouraging gaze, offering us strength and support in a way that only she can.

We’re social and emotional beings. The bond that we establish with our parents is so intimate that when this loss occurs, we’re shattered on the inside. As such, it can help to keep the following aspects in mind.


Everyone grieves differently

Grief is a personal process through which we come to accept the loss of a loved one. As indicated in a 2013 study published by the journal Psychooncology, the grieving process usually occurs in the following stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Expression of emotional pain or depression
  • Acceptance

Although these are the most common stages, we need to acknowledge that each person deals with loss differently.

By this we mean that we shouldn’t be offended if a sibling or other family member overreacts, or seems completely unaffected. Pain is channeled in very different ways and not all are equally adept at managing it.

It’s about finding your own “channel”, the one that provides you with the most relief. Talk to the people closest to you, spend time alone, look at photographs and cry as much as you need to. The suffering will lessen with each passing day. Although you may not believe it, you will be able to move forward again.


How to handle a loss without saying goodbye

The loss of our parents can be due to many different reasons. It may be a long-term illness, an accident, an unexpected heart attack…

  • However, what often hurts the most when losing a loved one is not being able to say goodbye.
  • Sometimes, people may lose a loved one after an argument or misunderstanding. When this happens, it can be much more difficult to accept the loss.
  • We can’t turn back time and fix things. What we can do, however, is focus our thoughts and emotions on the following: a parent always knows how much their child loves them. There are no hard feelings.

At the end of the day, trivial fights and silly arguments don’t matter. The bond between a parent and child is so strong and pure and sincere that we all need to have a chance to say a proper goodbye. They will always be with us, knowing how much we loved them.

Also read: Teach Children Happiness, not Perfectionism

The importance of learning to smile again after the death of a parent

Losing your parents leaves a deep wound that never totally heals, cutting right to the core of who we are. However, we can learn to live without them and allow ourselves to be happy, as long as we keep the following in mind:

  • Our parents would never want us to live a life dominated by sadness. It may seem hard, but you need to smile again for their sake and use your happiness as a way of honoring their memory.
  • Fill your mind with positive memories and special moments that give you strength and support.
  • The best times you had with your father or mother are emotional gifts that you should pass on to your children. They’re a legacy of love and affection that will help us to grow as people, putting us back in touch with our roots.
hands-touching-leaves after losing your parents

We will all have to eventually say goodbye to someone that we weren’t prepared to lose. However, the love we share today will be a source of strength to help us carry on tomorrow. Learn to live in the present and fully and sincerely enjoy the time you have with your loved ones.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bloomfield, Harold H., Colgrove, Melba and McWilliams, Peter. How to survive the loss of a love. Michigan. Mary books/Prelude Press, 2000.
  • Clavero, Pedro Juan y Cunill, Mónica. Rituales de despedida y conmemoración: la celebración de una vida. Su función preventiva en el proceso de duelo. Girona. Alfinlibros, 2008.
  • Kübler-Ross, E. Los niños y la muerte. Barcelona. Luciérnaga, 2005.
  • Neymeyer, Robert A. Aprender de la pérdida. Barcelona. Paidos, 2007.
  • Malkinson, R., & Bar-Tur, L. (2005). Long term bereavement processes of older parents: The three phases of grief. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 50(2), 103-129.
  • Ávila, M. M., & de la Rubia, J. M. (2013). El significado psicológico de las cinco fases del duelo propuestas por Kübler-Ross mediante las redes semánticas naturales. Psicooncología, 10(1), 109-130.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.