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Depression After The Death of a Parent

Death of a parent is a devastating event. Most of us have to at some point, face and cope with death of a parent and, eventually, both parents. This is always difficult and in some situations more difficult than for others. The pain of loss of a parent is unlike any. Additionally, the death of one parent is not the same as the death of both parents. There is a great book I recommend to many of my clients especially when the remaining parent dies. It is titled “The Orphaned Adult” by Alexander Levy. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, wise book which gives meaning to what it is being an orphan as an adult and many losses involved, including to one’s sense of identity.

Grieving a loss of a parent is normal. However, when it is extremely prolonged with not much significant ease, this can become what we call, complicated grief.  In a way what this means is that this is not only pain of a loss of a loved one, but, that there are complications in the relationship with a deceased parent that have not been worked through or resolved and it is difficult to move through the stages of grief and loss which leads to a “stuckness” of  unresolved feelings – most often guilt, anger and sometimes, shame. Sometimes, complicated grief reaction occurs when there is not sufficient separation that usually is a part of an adult relationship with a parent or if the death took place under sudden or tragic circumstances with no preparation for facing the loss.

In dealing with a loss of a parent, usually, emotional support from friends and family as well as time, can eventually provide some relief. As time passes and other things occur, there is a natural sense that “life goes on”, so to speak.

However if the loss, heartbreak and grief start turning into a feeling of depression, it may mean that the reaction to the death is “complicated” grief and it is time to seek professional help. With a help of an experienced therapist, it is important to identify the “unresolved” issues or any other elements of the relationship with a parent or other self  related feelings and issues that are in the way of integrating this major event into one’s life and continuing to experience life in its fullest capacity.