Healing from the Death of a Parent

It’s an inevitable fact that at some point our parents will die.

For many the grief from the loss of a parent can be profound. There are times that you may feel unable to breathe the grief is so heavy.  Meaningful days (birthdays, holidays, anniversaries) will hit you like a hurricane, leaving you feeling like a chaotic mess.

If you have recently experienced a parent’s death, this will be a difficult time for you.  It’s ok for you to acknowledge you may be struggling; it’s ok to pause or slow down. There may be pressure for you to hold it together, or be a pillar of strength. I’m giving you permission: you don’t have to be everything to everyone!

Finding ways to manage with your own feelings and daily functioning can be a challenge. Here are some ways that you can start the healing process after the death of a parent.

Support: This could be meeting regularly with a close friend, connecting with family members, attending a grief and loss support group (if you’re in the Sacramento area check out these), or getting professional support from a therapist. A therapist that you trust will be able to guide you in processing your feelings and finding ways to heal from this significant loss.

Connection:  Identify a few ways that you felt connected with your parent. Maybe you shared a love for the same style of music or your parent always coached your sport team as a teenager. Whatever connection you had, identify a way to celebrate that. Some examples would be: see a sport game to honor your parent, download a new album of your parent’s favorite band, or keep a picture of you and your parent with you to remember the positive times.

Remembrance:  While attending the memorial services of a loved one can be emotional, it can also be one of the most healing experiences in your journey. Memorials allow you to connect with others that also loved and cared for your parent, share funny, poignant and loving memories, and share in the sadness of the loss with others.

For some individuals, choosing to remember their parent in a private, individual way feels right. You may want to a create ritual as a way to honor your parent, possibly lighting a candle and saying a prayer for them, having their favorite meal on special days, or letting balloons off to send messages to heaven.

Self-Care: Honor yourself and where you are at.  Grief is a complicated process and healing from the death of a parent looks different for each person. Drop the judgment about where you “should” be, how you “should” be healing, or what you “should” be feeling. There are no rights or wrongs. What you are feeling and experiencing is alright.

While this is probably the most challenging time for you to focus on your own self-care, this is the most important time for you to do so. Basic needs like eating nourishing foods throughout the day, trying to keep a consistent routine, doing things to ensure good sleep at night, connecting with friends and family, and moving your body with exercise daily will help you regulate your emotions.

Know what your limits are. Identify where you feel comfortable and where to draw the line. There will be extra demands upon your time, from managing the estate to family needs. Be aware of what you can give and what can wait, and be clear in setting those limits.

When the grief won’t go away: It’s impossible to put a timeframe on how long healing from a loss will take. For most, healing is a slow but a steady process toward beginning to feel at peace with the loss.

There are times when you may feel “stuck” in grief. If the heaviness and pain lingers in your life and begins to impact your daily functioning (caring for yourself or your family, impacting your ability to work, etc.) you may need additional support.

If you would like some support in your healing journey, please reach out to me at 916-547-3997. I’m here to help. Also, if you know someone who is experiencing the loss of a parent, please share this post to support them in their healing.


Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist who specializes in providing counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.