Losing A Parent

12 April 2022

One person’s experience of grief after the death of their parent It’s 6am and I have just woken from a dream about my mum, who died 6 years ago. This has prompted me to write this blog about my own experience of losing a parent.  

I hope that what I’m about to write may resonate with others and help them with their own grief. Being part of the National Bereavement Service (NBS) is all about wanting to help others. There’s also something quite cathartic about putting my feelings down in writing, for the first time, to help me make sense of my own grief. 

My relationship with my mum

I didn’t have the best relationship with my mother.  She had her own troubles which made it difficult for her to form a close bond with her children and even more difficult for her to make friends.  

She lived alone for over 30 years after she separated from my father. During this time, her children were her only social contact. I would see her from time to time, but she could never find any positives or joy in life, so I found visits awkward, and they felt like a chore. My mother did love her grandchildren and writing this now makes me realise how much I do miss her even though our relationship was strained.  

Throughout my childhood I always had a good relationship with my father. However, my parents had a volatile relationship, often witnessed by me and my sibling(s). I know that growing up in a dysfunctional family has an impact on the relationships one form’s in later life, but I guess that is a whole different blog to write.

How my parents’ relationship affected me

Throughout my teenage years and into adulthood my mother always seemed to hold it against me that I got on well with my father. She made it clear how much she hated my father and ‘how I was always for him’.  

She never managed to put her hate for my father aside, which affected our relationship, and we never became as close as a mother and daughter often do.  When she looked at my own children she sometimes used to say that she saw their grandfather in them – which she did not like.  Hearing those words, understandably, made me feel very upset as it seemed that she could not see the distinct personalities they were becoming. 

Last moments with my mum

Six years ago, as my mother lay on her death bed in hospital, I stood by her and wanted to say something meaningful, but it never seemed to be the right moment. I could only look down and make sure she was not in any pain and that her journey leaving this life went as well as it could.  

Since her death, I have often wished I had just said something simple to her like “thank you for being my mum” or even “I love you”.  I don’t recall ever saying those words. It may have helped reduce the feelings of regret I still experience today.  

Regrets and ‘what ifs’

Death often makes one have regrets and think about the things that one wished had been said or done differently.  There is no magic wand or time machine to change the past, but we can try and learn from mistakes and try to make things better for our own lives.  

The few days following my mother’s death I had a vivid dream. I saw her in a beautiful white suit in a glow of light and she seemed to be so calm and happy. I don’t know what this dream signifies but I like to think it was some spiritual message she sent to me to say she was at peace, and everything would be alright.

Support with practical arrangements

Over the next few days and weeks following my mother’s death I had daunting tasks to manage, such as organising the funeral and registration of her death. I had never dealt with this before but as I work with bereaved people, I knew what had to be done. Knowing what to do really helped me to cope with my grief at this time.

Not everyone does know what to do after somebody they love dies and they can feel very vulnerable and overwhelmed. The best advice I can offer anyone tasked with managing funeral arrangements and the administration of an estate is to take one day at a time. Try not to feel rushed or pressured into dealing with everything in one day. 

If you feel emotionally vulnerable don’t be afraid to reach out.  If you don’t have any family or friends to speak to you can always call NBS for support.

Final thoughts to share

It is worth finding ways to deal with any regret you may be feeling. Along with the support of loving family and friends this will help you through your grief.   

Perhaps setting your own experience down in writing may also help you as it has helped me.  As I come to the end of writing about this aspect of my own experience, I feel a sense of calm. This has given me a chance to reflect and been part of helping me come to terms with my mother’s death. I have learned not to be too hard on myself over my relationship with my mum, but to look for the positives in what we had. 

Turn to NBS for any support you need

Whatever you need, whether it is advice about the practical steps to take after a loved one dies, or emotional support to help you through a challenging time, we are here for you.

Please visit www.thenbs.org or call 0800 0246 121