What It’s Like Losing A Parent You Aren’t Close To

February 23, 2018  |  
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Gettyimages.com/woman at a cemetery

It’s never easy to lose a loved one, and especially the person who brought you into this earth, presumably raised you, and paid for your life for the first 18 years of it (if not more). But I’m going to say something that perhaps I’m not allowed to say, but that many people have thought: losing a parent with whom you’re close is simpler. I didn’t say easier or less painful, but simpler. You know what you are—you’re sad. It is clearly a loss. It is, without question, a negative event in your life. You know that your life was better with them in it. You know what to feel. Now the part I’m not supposed to say: losing a parent you weren’t close to is tougher. You aren’t sure what to feel. There is a lot of guilt associated with having thought terrible things about someone who is now gone. Here’s a look at the strange experience of losing a parent you weren’t close to.


Handling his affairs makes you angry

If you’re stuck with the grueling and long task of handling the deceased’s affairs, sorting out his estate, selling his things, and so on, you become angry. Your relationship was a mess with this person, and now he’s left you a mess to clean up. And if he were here, you’re not sure he’d be grateful.

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You have to fake sadness for some people

There are some people to whom you couldn’t possibly explain the complex relationship with this parent. So you have to pretend to be sad about the loss in front of them—you know anything else would make you look like a monster.


Some things become easier

The reality is that this person may have caused some issues in your life. You might have struggled with the same problem, every week or month, with this individual. Now that they’re gone, so too is that problem.

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You feel bad that some things become easier

Acknowledging the fact that, now that this person is gone, certain struggles are also gone, leaves you feeling numb and weird and dizzy. You didn’t create this reality. Why should you feel guilty for noticing it?


You realize now that you didn’t realize they’d die one day

Only once this parent is gone do you realize how you didn’t realize before that one day, they’d be gone. There was a little part of you that believed that some day, you’d work things out. And now that day won’t be possible.


You’re angry with them for leaving things like this

Maybe you tried really, really hard to make things better with this parent and you just couldn’t. So maybe you’re mad that they made the choices they made, that left things like this between you two.


You’re irritated with yourself for being angry

You become irritated with yourself for being angry at this person. How are you still letting him affect your moods, even after he’s gone?

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You feel guilty accepting condolences

Accepting condolences from people makes you feel a little sick. It’s almost like taking money when you don’t need it. Or maybe you do need it? But not all of it. Ugh. You don’t know.

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You have to hear people talk nicely about him

At the funeral, you have to nod and smile when people say nice things about this person—things that, perhaps, you know aren’t true. But no matter how much they angered you, you have enough respect to keep quiet about it at the funeral.


Someone suggests you’re glad he’s gone

Someone who knows you well and knew your relationship with this parent suggests you’re glad he’s gone. This feels nasty and hurtful. Whether or not they’re correct, it’s not their place to address that complex and sensitive matter.

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It’s awkward with his partner or best friend

Seeing the person who was the closest to him—like his partner or best friend or sibling—is very awkward. You feel like you were on opposing sides of a battle. And now the battle just disappeared into thin air.


If you have to pay for the funeral, it stings

If you are the one responsible for paying for the funeral, you feel extra resentful. This person exhausted you emotionally when he was alive and will now exhaust you financially when he’s passed.

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You have to say nice things at the funeral

Not only do you have to listen to people say nice things about this parent at the funeral, but you also have to say nice things.

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You realize you only had that one parent

It also strikes you that that parent—awful as he may have been—was irreplaceable. There’s no other relationship like that. You can only have one mother or father (biological). You can have plenty of best friends and cousins, but only one parent like that.


You give false condolences

You have to give false condolences to his loved ones. You don’t understand why, but you know they’re very sad, and so you know you should say, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

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