Adult Children and the Loss of Elderly Parents

opentohope articles

Registered drama therapist and licensed counselor Deborah Antinori discusses the loss of elderly parents with Dr. Heidi Horsley. As adult children, losses can be minimized and disenfranchised. Loved ones don’t offer the same level of support or seem to worry as much about adult children compared to teens and young children—however, our parents are our parents no matter our age. Common responses are, “Well, the parent has lived a good, long life,” but that doesn’t make it any easier for the adult children. The last dance is one that can be traumatizing, even when the death is expected.

You’re connected to your parents from birth. There’s a sense that someone is protecting you. Losing a parent can be especially tough for those who had abusive parents. Adult children may feel ambivalence. There are also issues with dementia and Alzheimer’s that can come before a loss. There’s no such thing as an easy loss of an elderly parent. Preparing yourself by being proactive is key.

Getting Ready for Loss

Go to a gerontology specialist (with your parents if they’re open to it). However, there’s no full way to prepare. Little things keep popping up, from a parent’s birthday to shopping at a certain store where you spent a lot of time with your parent. The silver lining is that, when a parent dies of age, adult children do have some timeframe to prepare for the loss. It’s not “sudden,” even if the death itself is sudden.

It’s also common to respond differently than you think you would. For example, some adult children have the loss hit them hard, while others go numb. Seeking out a support network can help usher you through this difficult time, from professional help to family members.



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  • Audrey Grammas says:

    My cousin has just lost her father. He was 93. She lives in another city. She is feeling a great loss of her father (obviously) but her mother, similar age, has turned her back on her.

    She has expressed to me that she feels that she has lost both of her parents. She has also expressed that she is now experiencing some physical effects. More specifically (constipation).

    Have you ever heard of something like this happening? I am not sure what to do to help.
    Any advise?

  • Heleena says:

    I live in the UK and my mother was in Australia and suffered a series of events the caused her to have to be transferred into a nursing home. I last saw my Mum in 2016. My two siblings had to deal with the changes whilst I stayed here. I couldn’t travel to see Mum because I had a collapsed right hip and could hardly walk. On the day I had surgery Mum went to a Nursing home. I then promised her I would visit this November and I booked the flights. Sadly she died in July before I could go. Now my brother who arranged the funeral has become dismissive and domineering and quite disregarding of my own grief process. He thinks that as I am distant that I don’t care. I did travel 13,000 miles for her funeral only to find that my sibling had left me out of the whole process and I had to assert my right and care to actually read a poem that I had written.
    Now he wont have me stay in November and tells me I am selfish–very distressing for me. When Mum was in hospital I rang her most days sent her parcels and flowers by the internet and generally sort to care about my siblings and my Mum too.

  • Jackie says:

    A very good and close friend of mine lost his dad who had been ill sometime ago and had even undergone an operation. This guy already had a nonchalant attitude about most things and took life as it came. Instead of feeling sad or angry when he should, he’d just say “It’s life.”
    When he told me the news I felt helpless and was thrown off balance. He’s usually very free spirited but now I know he’s hurting but because of how he always pretends like everything’s fine, I don’t know what to do. He doesn’t even want to talk about the subject and we are far apart. I feel very helpless right now but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that he hates pity.
    Please what do I do? I want him to acknowledge and accept what’s going on. I believe it’s the first step to letting go, just like he wants to do.

  • Gail Antijunti says:

    I am just broken-earted especially around Christmas time….mom just loved Christmas…..made teddy bears and toy animals….sewed clothing for the family…..had an art gallery…painted…etc.
    She was 86 when she passed away……she did not make the next Christmas as she passed away in September…..I do not care if she was 100 years old…..I will always think of her as a young vibrant mother….doing all of her crafts and simply loving her family……I still and always will love you mom….June