How do you find parental figures in your life after losing a parent (s)? This month we have touched on some aspects of the loss of a parent(s). While we haven’t touched on everything, we have focused on some of the aspects which seem to be important.
Parental figures are key players in a person’s life, as parents (s) are expected to provide a range of emotional support to their children up until their adult years. Therefore parents or parental figures are a critical resource for their sons and daughters at all stages of life.
The grief experienced at any stage brings a range of psychological changes and issues that, for many, they will have to battle with all their life. This is especially true of relationships and how an individual may perceive them. When you experience a loss, you lose the love that came with the relationship you shared.
The relationship parents have with their children is generally one of unconditional love. Parents show up when you are hurting, feel like giving up or are at a crossroads; they are the ones who pick you up. Therefore, the weight of not having that anymore is not easy.
I overheard a conversation with two friends who spoke about the loss of their mothers and how they both felt ‘exposed’, ‘naked’ and without covering. I suspect this is due to the role their mothers played in their life. Their mothers were key players in their lives.
For some the key player is the Father. With the loss of these key players in our life we feel a void and with that void comes questions on identity. These difficult emotions can be triggered by celebratory days such as Mothers or Fathers day or even statements from well-wishers.
What can trigger grief?
Celebratory occasions can highlight the intensity of the loss and some key questions that arise about identity after losing a parent(s). Questions such as ‘can I still celebrate this day if my parent(s) have died’, ‘who am I without my parents(s)?’, ‘what is my purpose in life now?’, ‘who will cheer me on? Who will I make proud?’.
It is important to note that these questions may bring about a sense of isolation with the narrative being ‘my friends still have their parents, they don’t understand.’ While this may be true it is important at this time not to withdraw completely. It may be good to try a support group and talk to those who have suffered a similar loss.
How do you support a bereaved adult child?
In regards to statements from well-wishers. The most typical statements often made by people when they give their condolences are “Everything happens for a reason” and “You will get over it” While people assume they are comforting when they say this, they aren’t. These statements can be offensive, even though they are intended to be offered as words of comfort.
Firstly let’s look at “everything happens for a reason” while it may be true from a perspective of faith, it is often difficult to understand because if a parent (s) pass away painfully or when someone is very young, you leave that child with the responsibility of wanting to know why that thing happened and at times without context people blame themselves.
For example, if a parent passes away while giving birth, a lot of times a child can blame themselves; if they grow up being told that “everything happens for a reason”, they are likely not to form trusting or valuable relationships because they may assume they are the reason. When you experience a loss as an adult, you filter the relationships you will maintain based on how individuals have behaved during your loss.
“You will get over it” is another thing that people say as a means to comfort someone. A loss is not a cold or a bug that you catch and feel bad initially, and after two weeks, it’s all good. Grief is real, raw and ugly. You learn to live with it instead of getting over it. This particular statement can at times minimise the extent of the pain an individual is going through.
I believe that it’s important for those who lose parent(s) to know that it’s not something you get over, but you will learn to live with. Because when you buy a new home, get a promotion, get engaged, and get into the school you always wanted, every part of you will want to share that news with your parent(s), but you can’t. You face more challenging moments with the loss of a parent than you get over it.
How to find parental figures after a loss
Once you can accept that you will have to learn to live with the loss of your parent (s), you can open yourself up to know that you do not need to replace them with other people but can look up to parental figures that you have around you.
We understand that no one can take the place of a parent that has died, as each person is unique and irreplaceable. No one can hold all the memories that a parent and you share or the years and time spent together. However, it may be that you can have people in your life that fulfil the roles of a counsellor, friend or helpmate that your parent(s) would have been.
Even though it won’t be the same. This can be Uncles or Aunts, step parents or in laws. It can also be other extended family members or people within your community or church. However, it can sometimes be strangers, people you have no relation to but somehow establish a connection with and help you feel secure as you navigate your new identity.
It’s important to allow yourself to be open to receiving the love of a parental figure if you choose to do so. If you are a person of faith, you can pray about it for God to bring you the right people you can look up to as parental figures. Or you could leverage an existing relationship but at a deeper level.
It is important to ensure that you feel safe and secure with any parental figure so take your time and avoid rushing the process. Maybe take some time to reflect on it, as navigating new parental figures is a journey on its own and can come with some challenging obstacles. But it is possible to find parental figures. And it’s also OK to recognise that no one can replace the parent(s) you lost but you do not have to journey through life alone.
23rd March is a national day of reflection, you could use this as a prompt to connect with others as you remember your loved one(s) and reflect on your feelings on some of the points covered today. Visit for more info https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/day-of-reflection
Have you lost a parent(s)? How did you or have you found parental figures? We would love to hear from you, please share your thoughts in the comments.