17 Brutal Truths About Losing a Parent As a Child
I lost my mom when I was 12. It took me about 15 years to sort out a lot of the things that happened when I was a kid.
If you went through something similar you can probably relate to these brutal truths of losing a parent as a child.
I’ll list 17 key things that stand out to me about losing a parent as a child.
I’ve added things that’ve helped me along the way like free resources, journaling PDFs, and books I’ve read.
Losing a Parent As a Child
1 | Guilt
Maybe you felt like you could have done more to save them, maybe you feel like you should have spent more time with them while they were here. Many kids feel bad for a long time about not having done more.
Losing a parent as a child is different than losing losing a parent as an adult.
As children, we need to believe that our parents are able to care for us.
When it becomes very obvious that our parent is not able to care for us, it’s easier for us to think that something must be defective with us personally and not the caregiver who we rely on for survival.
Losing a parent as a child has a way of making the child feel unlovable, not worthy of fighting for, and not good enough to be taken care of.
When I was young and my mom was going downhill fast she asked me to make sure she did this “exercise routine” that her doctor told her to do, so she could “get better”.
I remember her struggling on the floor, showing me how she was suppose to do it.
I was maybe 10 or 11 as I watched her, hardly able to lift herself off the ground.
It was blaringly obvious that my mom wasn’t okay.
Did I make sure that she did the exercises? No.
Did she die shortly after? Yes.
I felt guilty for 15 or so years and if you asked me if I felt guilty, I would have probably told you that I didn’t.
Logically, why would I? It wasn’t my responsibility.
I didn’t have the ability to make her better.
BUT, eventually 15 years later in therapy I found myself sobbing about never making her do those exercises.
Losing a parent as a child paints guilt on the child’s hands; whether it’s logical or not & whether we like it or not..
2 | Academic Successes Go Unnoticed
When you have a moment of pride it’s not witnessed by the parent who is gone, and it will never be.
Losing a parent as a child is accompanied by a lifetime of unrecognized accomplishments.
- Kindergarten graduation
- High school graduation
- College graduation
- Grades, honor roll, perfect attendance
3 | You Grow up Fast
Losing a parent as a child affects a child’s innocence.
Your blissful child-like innocence is promptly taken from you.
You may have had to take on additional responsibilities around the house. If you had other siblings, maybe you had to give emotional support to them.
There are usually big decisions, changes and emotions when it comes to a death in the family and being a child of the person is likely going to involve you in the affairs.
Losing a parent as a child affects the child’s priorities, responsibilities, and obligations.
4 | Feeling Like an Outcast
Most kids have two parents one way or another and people will assume you do too, leaving you the responsibility to correct them.
If you don’t you’ve overlooked your true self, but if you do you’re certain to have an awkward moment.
Maybe the reason for the absence of your parent was whispered around at school, the neighborhood, or church; leaving room for stories or exaggerations about your personal life.
Losing a parent as a child affects your social status and interpersonal relationships.
5 | Feeling a Hole in The Chest
There is a logical explanation for the sensation of feeling as if a hole has been blown through your chest.
It’s a great deal of pain to lose a parent as a child. That emotional pain deals with the same part of the brain as physical pain.
The vagus nerve can even become overstimulated which can cause pain in your chest, neck and stomach or even make you feel sick.
6 | Your Kids Will Never Meet Them
Your kids will never know that grandparent, or if you want to think of it this way; your kids will never meet that parent of yours.
That’s a pretty big deal.
Losing a parent as a child isn’t something you just “get over”.
In fact, it will be noticed for generations to come.
7 | They’ll Miss Your Wedding
That parent won’t be there to witness the excitement of your first love, or guide you through the heartache of when it ends.
They won’t be there to help pick out a wedding dress, see walk down the aisle in it, or dance with you.
8 | Don’t Forget About the Extracurriculars
You won’t be able to experience holidays or rite of passages together. They won’t be there for
- Getting Your Drivers License
- Moving Out
- School Dances
- Family Vacations
- Sports Events
- Buying A Home
- The Fair
- Christmas Concerts…
9 | They Won’t Be There When You Give Birth
One of the biggest moments in a persons life, especially for a female, could arguably be giving birth.
It’s not only a difficult and emotional time but a magical one that you will not have that parent there to experience with you.
10 | The Other Parent Takes a Hit
Losing a parent will more than likely impact the surviving parent.
They may be trying to do both roles of the parents.
The household may have lost an income or the ‘stay at home’ parent.
It is likely going to be an emotional time for the other parent, at the very least. As a child you will have the role of helplessly witnessing it all.
11 | Possibility of A Step Parent
After the loss of a parent, a new person could try to fill the role eventually. Your other parent may enjoy the company, but you may not.
This will be a big adjustment for everyone. It’s usually a learning curve that takes a few years to sort out and there may even be other children to make it more complicated.
12 | They’re Not There to Lean On
A lot of people turn to their parents during hard times, but where most people have that support you will have a void.
From something as small as scraping your knee, to something as disorienting as puberty, or even as scary as cancer or a divorce; they won’t be there to offer support or give you life advice.
You’ll instead have a painful reminder that they’re not there.
Losing a parent as a child can feel like you’re taking a long lonely walk, in the black of night.
Love and support is really important in youth and it’s undeniable that the death of a parent affects a child’s amount of support.
13 | High Power Problems
Excuse me, but what god takes a parent from a child?
It’s not uncommon for kids to develop an issue with the idea of a higher power. There are a couple of reasons why.
There is resentment and anger that accompanies grief that can specifically target belief systems.
Some will even feel their god is “out to get them” which has been called a “gotcha god”.
There is also the possibility that a higher power would mean you’re not in control, this is a scary concept to many that grew up in an environment where they had little control coupled with a lot of despair.
Often times kids like us strive for control, it may come out as perfectionism, people pleasing, unwillingness to put trust in others (including god), eating disorders.. but they are all a desperate attempt to hold onto any stability or control that we’ve found.
Losing a parent a parent as a child can leave you scorned, and not even Jesus is off limits.
14 | You Wont Get to Watch Them Grow Old
You wont be able to care for them in their old age & you won’t know what medical history would have developed if they did have the chance to live a full life.
“Grief is when the book shuts before the story is over”
15 | “I’ll Never Let That Happen To Me”
How your parent passed can easily turn into anxiety, or even a phobia.
Some kids might worry about a similar accident happening to them.
You might be worried you will turn out just like them and avoid any possibility of it.
It is a very real fear for many that can change how we live, who we hang out with and what we do.
16 | Attachment Issues
You could also call it abandonment issues but either way, you may be guarded, afraid of intimacy, or not willing to be vulnerable after such a big loss.
For a child to feel secure they need the presence and safety of caregivers.
If you have one absent it leaves an unknown in a person’s psyche of what security or “love” means.
We sometimes leap over red flags and tolerate abuse because we feel it “could be worse” or maybe we’re scared they may leave abruptly.
This can cause us to move too fast in relationships because we are overly focused on the potential of having a secure connection, which many of us desperately crave.
If you struggle with attachment problems; being too closed off or too clingy, etc. Here is a book I found to be VERY helpful that you can get on Amazon.
17 | Stunted Development
This will depend on when you lost the parent.
For example, I lost my mom when I was 12. This is a big age to experiment with dating and friendships, peer integration, etc.
I wasn’t able to integrate the traumatic things I went through until I was about 27. So, I wasn’t able to genuinely make connections with those around me.
The death of a parent affects a child’s development because while other kids are participating, learning, and growing; you’re staggering through grief.
The child’s age will influence how the death of a parent affects the child’s growth and development.
If you’re interested in learning about the stages of development you can read about Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development to get a better understanding.
I’m sorry for your massive loss
“Have patience with all things. But, first of all with your self.”
Francis de Sales
Other Content Related to Losing a Parent As a Child
“I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone-you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence.”
Alyson Noel, Evermore
Here are some free resources below that you might also find helpful.
A non profit organization that offers TONS of free support. They have individualized therapy and support groups for eating disorders, abuse, PTSD, dissociation, sexual trauma, grief and loss, self esteem, self care, men’s support groups, and substance abuse.
They have one on one services and group/workshops. I have joined many of their PTSD groups. I always felt safe & definitely felt connected with someone who’s been there.
Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families | ACOA
Another amazing place to connect. ACOA changed my life. I know that many others feel the same admiration for this program.
There are thousands of groups and they all have their own flavor. If you don’t like one, try another! They have guidelines to ensure that you feel safe. It’s all free.
You never have to turn on a camera or mic, or speak at all. I sometimes just join to listen to others.
Don’t be turned off if you’re not from an alcoholic family; alcohol aside; there are tons of people that are just as welcome as anyone else.
Dysfunction and abuse comes in a lot of forms and so many people come together and accept each other, as they are, in ACOA. I like the humor within the groups. Listening to the stories and hearing what others have learned is pretty insightful too.
For weekly mental health content
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17 Brutal Truths About Losing a Parent As a Child
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