Losing a Parent

Grief Support

We empathize with how the death of a loved one can be a difficult experience.

They may be gone, but they are far from forgotten. It’s an experience nobody expects yet leaves scars in our hearts that last a lifetime.

In our own way, Algordanza wishes to help you cope with grief and loss. A local certified Psychotherapist stands with us in this endeavor and brings you the following articles to help you in times of grieving:

Losing a Parent
Losing a Parent
Written by:Sasha Javadpour - Founder|Director|Psychotherapist-Hirsch Therapy Pte. Ltd.

The loss of a parent is a universal experience. Most people will experience the loss of a parent in their lifetime. This, however, does not make the loss any easier to cope with when it happens. The experience of any loss can bring up intense emotional, psychological, and physiological reactions. Emotional reactions include anger, bitterness, intense yearning, and longing for the lost loved one. Our minds may be flooded by intrusive distressing thoughts of guilt, shame, disbelief, or regret. We may even experience frequent and sudden sharp pain in the chest or stomach regions when we miss them. These experiences may become intense enough to temporarily disrupt interests and engagement in life.

The loss of a parent is particularly devastating because of what it represents. As the first people to take care of us when we are born, our parents become our first primary caregivers. Throughout history, this has been a bond paramount to survival. Next begins the long journey to adulthood. This is a time of vast discovery and learning. It is also a time very vulnerable time, where we are very dependent on our primary caregivers. For this reason, we instinctively work towards establishing stronger attachments to our caregivers. This strong attachment also makes us very resistant to, and fearful of, separation. Taken together, this means that the more vulnerable we feel, the more attached we are to our primary caregiver, and in turn, the greater the devastation should we lose them.

With age, people develop the mental resources necessary for survival, which helps to protect adults from the blow of losing a parent. Children, on the other hand, are at greater risk of being overwhelmed by loss. And, if left unresolved, parental loss can obstruct or delay development, especially in areas of identity and social relationships. To a child, a parent represents home, safety and security. Losing a parent is one of the most tragic experiences that can occur in the life of a child, regardless of which parent is lost. Parents provide children with a safe base from which they can explore the world around them. This provides a guarantee that they can always return to a space where they are welcomed, nourished, celebrated, and loved. The safe base sets the foundation for children to build on their identities and form a sense of self. When this safe base is taken away from them, this process is compromised. This can impair their confidence in themselves and, so, their ability to adept and cope with daily challenges.

Often times, we see bereaved children responding to heightening levels of stress by withdrawing socially which allows feelings depression, anxiety, aggression and loneliness to fester. In turn, these increase the risk for developing substance abuse issues, promiscuity, trust issues, violence, and self-harm. As such, it is imperative for bereaved children to learn new coping skills and develop the strengths needed to navigate difficult and complex social and emotional challenges in life.

The loss of a parent can be difficult event to process for people of all ages. Helping yourself or someone else through such a turbulent time will take many resources. By equipping yourself with as many resources as possible, managing this difficult process can be made a little more manageable.

The loss of a parent often represents a lost connection to history. Maintaining and strengthening relationships with relatives can help retain some of this connection. Relatives tend to share similarities in culture and traditions. This offers a continued source of familiarity that can help people regain a sense of security and stability. It is also encouraged to maintain ties with friends, teachers, mentors, peers and community members. It is important to maintain a connection with the environment during the grieving process to stay in touch with what is happening. This can help to provide the person grieving with a sense of continuity – there is a life to get back to. These people can also help the grieving person to reintegrate into the respective settings with their support.

Finally, grieving can be an emotionally turbulent time. Often times, it can become difficult to express each of these emotional states. In such instances, it can be helpful to engage in artistic expressions such as journaling, scrapbooking, music compilations, recording videos, or other creative mediums. These can help in expressing complicated and deep emotion, and at the same time offer a way to record and preserve dear memories and thoughts.

The quality of care received following the loss of a parent plays a vital part in mental health outcomes of the person grieving, especially for children. One of the most significant predictors of recovery and adjustment in children who experienced the loss of a parent is the relationship between the child and the next primary caretaker. This caretaker role can be undertaken by the surviving parent, relative or any other person who becomes the child’s guardian. Children will depend on the next caretaker to clarify and validate the reality of the death, co-facilitate the grieving process and help them draw meaning from the loss. An attentive and sensitive approach to communication will help in alleviating many of the stressors and fears of the child, as well as help to foster a new sense of stability and security. Bereaved children who perceive that their new family environment encourages open sharing and expression of thoughts and feelings about the deceased caregiver are more likely to adjust more positively to the loss. A well-functioning caregiver will help the child develop adequate emotion-regulation skills, maintain a warm climate in the family, and nourish the child’s social skills.

It is understandable that the new caretaker, other relatives, and friends may also be affected by the loss. This may leave limited resources left to attend to the bereavement and adjustment needs of the children. The new primary caretaker for the children may not be emotionally available or responsive while they are dealing with the loss themselves, and this may compromise the new attachment relationship and the recovery process for the children. In such instances, seeking help from a mental health professional can be crucial.

Under professional care, the primary therapeutic tasks is to provide a safe place for children and families to explore any difficult changes while integrating new information with the understandings of themselves and the world around them. Therapeutic interventions focus on building self-esteem and supporting the development of a healthy continuous identity, particularly since attachment disruptions can create feelings of worthlessness in children. Professional care will also involve family work, especially when children are involved. Family work aims to improve family communication, clarify misconceptions surrounding the loss, and help create a strong supportive network for all members of the family.