When You Lost a Parent as a Child

girl with hand on window sill, looking out sadly

The devastation of losing a beloved parent when you’re a child or teenager can leave a bigger mark than you may have thought. You may realize, decades later, that your early life choices had more to do with your world being ripped apart by the loss of your parent, than your naiveté. That parent would have been your anchor while you moved into adulthood. It’s easy to understand how you may have become adrift. The grief may have been pushed away and denied, but it still shaped your life.

This is true for me, at least. I’m still learning, growing, and healing at 60. My life took a major detour when I lost my father at 16. I have forgiven, and continue to forgive, my younger self. I have also forgiven my mom for trying to fix me her way, while she was grieving. In addition, I try to make a point of acknowledging what I have managed to build for myself in spite of my detours and hard lessons. That helps with the guilt and the shame, but the grief remains. Sometimes, I am overcome by a wall of sadness for that eight-year-old, who was told her dad had ten years to live, and for the 16-year-old who lost him before she became a woman.

If you have experienced a similar loss, please be good to yourself. Hug that little boy or girl who didn’t get to finish growing up. Find people who understand and can help you walk through the pain. I’m sending you love and encouragement, and I’m honoring, with you, your tender heart.