Chapter 3: Grieving the loss of your parent

How relationships may complicate grief

The grief expert says
Fred describes the challenges of grieving a difficult relationship.(3:22)Video transcript

My dad left us when we were just kids. Somehow, he still managed to cause hurt in our family growing up. Even though he wasn’t around much, he manipulated my brothers and somehow turned them against each other. I never stepped in to help, and I blame myself for that. After my dad died, all of us stopped talking…even our kids.You might think that the closer you feel to a parent, the harder it is to grieve their death; but very often, it is the complicated relationships that lead to difficulties in grieving. Sometimes a parent’s death reopens old wounds. Click the arrows below to see some examples of what may have negatively affected your relationship.

Lost opportunities

You may be grieving that “time has run out” to change your relationship or to say the things that you felt needed to be said.


Stuck in grief

When a relationship is complicated, there is a greater chance that you may experience more difficulty moving through your grief. If you feel you are becoming stuck in an endless loop of difficult thoughts or emotions that are affecting your day-to-day activities, relationships, or sleep, consider talking to your healthcare provider or seeking the support of a grief counsellor.

Moving forward

Over time you may gain new insights and understanding about your parent and their life. You may come to realize that your parent’s behaviour was the result of difficulties in their childhood or later life. This does not mean that you must forgive your parent or dismiss how you are feelings.

You may feel “ripped off” or jealous of other people’s relationships with their parents. There is nothing wrong with these feelings unless they harm your other relationships or interfere with your own well-being.

You may have been taught, either directly or indirectly, “not to speak or think ill of the dead,” but remember that it can be normal to feel angry, relieved, and sad all at once. This can be confusing, but it is natural.

What may help

Everyone grieves differently. Find what is helpful to you, knowing this will not be the same for everyone.

It can be helpful to remember that it takes time to identify and find ways to move through the losses that come with the death.

Find people who will support you without judgment.

If you become “stuck” in your grief, seek support from a grief counsellor or healthcare provider.