The parent-child relationship is often the most important of all human ties. Most people learn how to be in the world through their parents; the feelings and memories run deep. The pain immediately following their death can be intense. You may also find that the death of a parent causes other losses, such as the loss of a grandparent to your children. It is important to remember that there are some things you can do to make your grief more bearable.

Let yourself grieve in your own way and at your own pace. There is no “right way” to mourn. There is also no timetable for grief, no exact moment when you should “feel better” or “get over it.” Grieving is not about “getting over” the death. It is about expressing your sorrow, sharing your memories, and learning how to go forward with your life. With time, you will find that your memories bring more pleasure than pain, and that you still have an ongoing connection with your parent.

Allow yourself to feel. Feeling sad, lonely, and disoriented after the death of a parent is natural. If your parent was ill for a long time before the death, you may feel some relief that their suffering is over, especially if you were responsible for your ill parent’s care. If the death was sudden, when the shock wears off you may feel cheated that you didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. If your relationship with your parent was conflicted, you may feel anger or guilt about unresolved issues. If this was your second parent to die, you may feel especially distressed; becoming an “adult orphan” can be very painful.

Sometimes the intensity of your emotions can be frightening; you may feel as if you’ve lost control of your emotions or are “going crazy.” Painful as these feelings can be, they are all part of the natural response to the death of someone loved. Expect ups and downs, and be patient with yourself. The intensity of these feelings will subside over time.

Recognize the death’s impact on your entire family. If you have brothers or sisters, the death of your parent will most likely affect them differently than it is affecting you. The death may also stir up family conflicts, such as disagreements about the funeral or arguments about family finances. Or you may find that the death of your parent brings you and your family closer together. If you have young children or teenagers, they will need support as they grieve the loss of their grandparent; if you are too grief-stricken yourself to provide this support, enlist the help of other family members or friends. Finally, when there is a surviving parent, try to understand the death’s impact on him or her; the death of a spouse will mean different things to your surviving parent than it does to you.