How should I be feeling when I’ve lost my Mum or Dad?

How should I be feeling when I’ve lost my Mum or Dad?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen quite a few of the google searches that led people to my blog being about how people feel after they’ve lost their Mum or their Dad and how they think they are supposed to feel….and the great difference between the two.  So I decided to write about this topic.

What are you supposed to feel?

There are very clear expectations on you when you are grieving about what you will be feeling.  Everybody has a fair idea about what emotions you expect someone who has lost a parent or someone close to them to go through, right?  Like sadness, numbness, emptiness, anger.  You’ll miss them.  You might be incredibly distraught.  But one thing is for sure – it’s all negative, painful stuff and you’ll definitely go through it.

Isn’t that true?

One of the biggest problems around grief and one of the biggest reasons people can get stuck there is, very simply, that they aren’t able to be honest about their emotions.   There are a lot of feelings they can’t admit to themselves, let alone to others.

Most professionals in this area will talk about the pain, the overwhelming sadness, etc.  They’ll talk about the inevitable stages that you’ll go through when grieving.  I have to point out now that I don’t prescribe to the (though often challenged these days) established 5 or 7 stage model of grieving.  I’ve been through enough of it and worked with enough grieving people to have seen that sure, if you don’t admit how you are truly feeling, don’t resolves some of the emotions, and leave all of those deep questions unanswered then yeah, you will be stuck in a long process that may see you through some of those stages eventually finding yourself in something called acceptance, because you really can’t find any other place to go.

But a HUGE part of what goes on for people when they are grieving is that they are feeling all sorts of emotions that they don’t believe they are supposed to be feeling and they push them down and get stuck where they are.

What are you really feeling?

If there is one thing, just one thing, that you take away from this blog today and into your own experience it is this – honesty.  Don’t lie to yourself about how you are feeling.  You will be feeling all sorts of different emotions and denying some of those can cause you a lot more pain.

So I am going to make an honest list of some of the things you might be feeling:

  • Sadness
  • Relief
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Happiness
  • Overwhelm
  • Numb
  • Surprise
  • Anticipation
  • Sorrow
  • Shame
  • Amusement
  • Closeness
  • Disconnection
  • Fear
  • Hope
  • And many, many more…….

You may feel an emotional wreck.  Or you may feel ok.  You may be thinking about them a lot.  Or you may not.  Or you might flick from one to the other.  These emotions listed above are not stages that you will go through.  Don’t assume that the negative ones are the ones you go through first and the positive ones are the ones you end up at.  Some of the list above might look shocking to you but these are all very valid and very natural emotional responses that go on when you’ve lost a parent.  You can be feeling a bunch or all of these at once about different aspects of the death.

The negative ones are the ones you are expected to feel and that you might feel bad about if you aren’t feeling them or feeling enough of them.  The positive ones are the ones that will cause you the most turmoil because nobody tells you that you might feel these, and they certainly don’t tell you it is ok to.  And the guilt that comes from feeling emotions you think you aren’t supposed to is immense.  And this guilt can eat you up, all the while passing itself off as part of your grief.

Allow yourself to feel what you feel

Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling and know it is absolutely ok whatever way you are feeling/responding to the loss of your parent.  If you feel ok, or you feel devastated, or you feel a bit of relief, then admit that to yourself.  There are very good reasons why you will feel each of these things.  And I’ll let you in on a secret – you aren’t the only one feeling this over a loss.  You just might be one of the few that own up to it.

The simple act of truly acknowledging what is going on for you and knowing it is ok can make a profound difference to your experience after losing a parent.

As with many of my blogs there is so very much more I could write on this topic and at some stage I will do a series of blogs covering each of the big emotions separately, particularly the more challenging ones.

If you are struggling with some of the emotions you are feeling about your mum or dad that you’ve lost, or making sense of the way you are feeling, feel free to get in touch with me.



About Kristie West

I'm a Grief Specialist and I help adults who have lost a parent. I am known for positively changing people's experience of the loss of a parent in less than 4 hours.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Dealing with the people around you when you are grieving, Looking after yourself, Loss of a parent, Talking about death, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How should I be feeling when I’ve lost my Mum or Dad?

  1. Celia says:

    Thanks so much for this post Kristie. One of the aspects I’ve been struggling with is acknowledging that I’m feeling better now, and allowing myself to feel ok about being ok. I sometimes catch myself questioning whether this is normal, or whether this makes me a bad daughter. Your post made me feel much better!

  2. Kristie West says:

    Hi Celia,

    One of the reasons people will hang on to grief is that they believe that it’s the right thing to do when someone they love has died, and that to not grief or to be ok would be to dishonour them or to show you didn’t love them…..which is total hogswash. 😉
    A couple of really good questions to ask yourself are:
    1) what would your dad want to see you doing/feeling? and…
    2) what would be a better way to honour him and show you love him, than to be in pain?

    I think the best way we can honour our parents is to find meaning in what has happened, to remember and love them without it being a painful experience, to go on and make the most of the life they have given us, and continue to do the things that we are here to do and be the person they loved us for. After all, we are their legacy.
    Thanks for sharing here. 🙂


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  5. Pingback: Questions I get asked: “Why aren’t I reacting normally to my dad’s death? I feel numb. Why am I not feeling it like everyone else is?” | Kristie West – Getting Beyond Grief

  6. Pingback: Questions I get asked: “Why aren’t I reacting normally to my dad’s death? I feel numb. Why am I not feeling it like everyone else is?” | Kristie West – Getting Beyond Grief

  7. Rebecca says:

    I lost my mum in may due to a bad reaction to chemotherapy it was very sudden and unexpected I have a large family and everyone seams to be coping in there own way but I feel so lonely and I can not accept she as gone and I don’t know what to do please help

    • Kristie West says:

      Hi Rebecca,
      I’m very sorry to hear about your mum. It can be really tough when everyone seems to be going through different stuff…or at least only showing certain stuff(not everyone is expressing it in the same way). I know it can make you feel very lonely, and also very disappointed and angry at them. It doesn’t have to feel like this though.
      I can help you out – email me direct


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