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When a Parent Dies

When a Parent Dies


Dami was six years old when an aneurysm claimed the life of her dad. Derrick was nine when his father died of heart disease. Jeannie was seven when her mom passed away after a year-long battle with ovarian cancer. *

All too soon, these three young people were confronted with the death of a loved one. Have you had a similar experience? If so, this article can help you come to terms with your loss. * First, though, consider a few facts about grieving.


There are many ways to grieve. This means that the way you express your sorrow might differ from the way others do so. “Coping with a death does not follow a simple pattern or set of rules,” says the book Helping Teens Cope With Death. The important thing is that you do not unduly suppress your grief. Why? Because . . .

Suppressing grief can be harmful. Jeannie, mentioned at the outset, says: “I thought I had to be strong for my little sister, so I buried my emotions. Even today, I tend to suppress painful feelings, and that’s not healthy.”

Experts would agree. “Feelings denied or bottled up won’t stay bottled up forever,” says the book The Grieving Teen. “They will return when you least expect [them to] in the form of emotional flare-ups or physical ailments.” Suppressed grief can also lead to the abuse of alcohol or drugs, all done in an effort to numb the pain.

Grieving may be accompanied by confusing emotions. For example, some people feel anger at the person who died, feeling that the person “abandoned” them. Others blame God, thinking that he should have prevented the death. Many who grieve feel guilt for things they did or said to the person, since there is now no way to make amends.

Clearly, grieving can be a complex process. How can you get relief and be helped to move forward?


Talk to someone. You might be inclined to isolate yourself during this difficult time. But pouring out your feelings to a family member or a friend will help you deal with your emotions and keep this tragedy from overwhelming you.Bible principle: Proverbs 18:24.

Keep a journal. Write about the parent you lost. For example, what is your most cherished memory of that person? Write about his or her commendable qualities. Which ones would you like to imitate in your life?

If you are plagued with negative thoughts—for example, if you cannot stop thinking about something harsh you said to your parent before he or she passed away—write down what you feel and why. For example, “I feel guilty because I had an argument with my dad the day before he died.”

Next, challenge the reasonableness of your guilt. “You cannot blame yourself for not knowing that there would never be an opportunity to apologize,” says The Grieving Teen. “To suggest that one must never say or do anything that might call for a future apology is simply not realistic.”Bible principle: Job 10:1.

Take care of yourself. Get adequate rest, sufficient exercise, and proper nutrition. If you do not feel like eating, have a number of healthful snacks throughout the day instead of full meals—at least until your appetite returns to normal. Do not soothe your grief with junk food or alcohol; they will only make things worse.

Talk to God in prayer. The Bible says: “Throw your burden on Jehovah, and he will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22) Prayer is not merely an emotional crutch. It is real communication with the God who “comforts us in all our trials.”2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.

One way that God comforts those who mourn is through his Word, the Bible. Why not examine what it teaches about the true condition of those who have died and the hope of a resurrection? *Bible principle: Psalm 94:19.

^ par. 4 You can also read about the experiences of Dami, Derrick, and Jeannie in the article that follows this one.

^ par. 5 Although this article is about the death of a parent, the principles discussed also apply to the death of a sibling or a friend.

^ par. 19 See chapter 16 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 1. It is available for free download at Look under PUBLICATIONS.