The loss of a parent is a loss like no other…

It doesn’t seem to matter what age our parents leave this world, we’re seldom ready for that final farewell.

Our father passed away in December 2001.  He was a young man but had experienced poor health for many years leading up to his death but that knowledge didn’t help to lessen the loss for us.

At that stage, our mother was still alive, and we felt incredibly fortunate to have her in our lives for a further 18 years.  However, even though we had those additional years with her, we were still heartbroken when the time finally came to let her go.

In the same way that we always remain our parent’s children – our parents are always our parents – regardless of their age.

The impact of a parent’s death

As adults, we’re generally able to understand that we’re likely to outlive our parents.  Logically we know that the time will come when we’ll need to say goodbye to them. 

On some level, we’re aware that we’re all stardust and that releasing our parents is part of the circle of life.

However, in my experience, we must not underestimate the devastating impact this loss can have on us as adults.  It may also be helpful to consider how it’s likely to be experienced by our inner child. 

This brings me to another interesting point – did you know that a significant number of adults are unaware of their inner child?

True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s inner child.  For most adults, this never happens.  Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned, or rejected.  We are told by society to “grow up”, putting childish things aside.  To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child – representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity, and playfulness, must be stifled, quarantined, or even killed.  The inner child comprises and potentiates these positive qualities.  But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears, and anger.  “Grown-ups” are convinced they have successfully outgrown, jettisoned, and left this child, and its emotional baggage – long behind.  But this is far from the truth.”  Dr. Stephen Diamond (Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: The Inner Child).

Regardless of what age we are, or how worldly and mature we may be, there is still an inner child in every one of us – seen or not.  And, that inner child needs to be treated compassionately and sensitively when their parent dies.  The inner child is that aspect of us who still sees their parents through the eyes of the child within.

How might we include and nurture our inner child when a parent dies?

First and foremost – acknowledge the existence of the child within you.

If you’ve lost contact with that little person over the years, start building an emotional bridge and making an effort to connect with them.  Reassure them that the adult in you is more than capable of taking care of them and that you welcome their ability to help you to reconnect with all their wonderful child-like qualities.  Give your inner child the right to be devastated at the loss of their beloved parent.  Be gentle with them around this loss and encourage them to allow their tears to fall, whilst gently reassuring them that you will take good enough care of them.

Recovering from the death of a parent will depend on many variables.  What’s central to the process is our ability to love, respect, accept, and nurture all aspects of ourselves.

Rev Caroline Lennon

Certified Civil Celebrant and Interfaith Minister based in Ireland.

As a non-denominational Minister, there are no limitations to the personal ceremony that can be created exactly as you wish.

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