What Are Normal Signs of Grief After the Death of a Parent?

Losing a parent is an experience that leaves a profound impact on our lives. As family members navigate through this difficult period, it’s important to understand and recognize the normal signs of grief. Grieving is a highly personal experience, and how people find ways to come to terms with their loss varies greatly.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Dec 13, 2023
3 min read

Understanding Grief

Grief is a natural response to the death of a loved one. It’s not just a single emotion but a complex amalgam of feelings that can include sadness, anger, guilt, and regret. For many, the initial feelings of shock after losing a parent can be overwhelming. You might feel numb or disbelieving, unable to comprehend the reality of your loss. This numbness is a common first reaction and serves as a psychological defense mechanism to help you process the loss gradually.

Prolonged Grief

Prolonged grief, often referred to as complicated grief, is a form of enduring sorrow that remains intense and unrelenting for an extended period. It’s more than just feeling sad or mourning; it’s a deep, persistent yearning for the deceased that doesn’t ease with time. This condition can significantly impact one’s mental health and daily functioning, affecting various aspects of life.

Prolonged grief can take a heavy toll on mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Physically, it may manifest through symptoms like insomnia, changes in appetite, and a weakened immune system. The grief can become so encompassing that it interferes with the ability to work, maintain social relationships, or take care of one’s health and wellbeing.

The symptoms of grief are diverse and can manifest differently in each individual. Common signs include:

  • Intense Sadness: Feeling sad is the most recognized symptom of grief. You might feel a deep sorrow and yearning for your lost parent.
  • Anger: It’s not uncommon to feel anger towards the situation, yourself, the deceased, or even others.
  • Guilt and Regret: You may have regrets or feel guilty about things unsaid or undone.
  • Difficulty Sleeping: Grief can disrupt your sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or oversleeping.
  • Changes in Appetite: Some people find they have little appetite, while others may eat more than usual.

Grieving a Difficult Relationship

Grieving the loss of a parent is inherently complex, but it becomes even more intricate and emotionally taxing when the relationship was strained or difficult. Such circumstances often leave individuals dealing with a tangle of unresolved issues and a whirlwind of mixed emotions, complicating the grieving process significantly.

In cases of difficult relationships, mourning can be less about the loss of the individual and more about the loss of what could have been – the hope for reconciliation, a better relationship, or understanding. You might grieve not just for the parent you lost, but for the parental relationship you never had.

Coping with Grief

Here are some ways to navigate through this challenging time:

1. Allow Yourself to Feel

Embracing your feelings of grief is vital. Grief can encompass a range of emotions, from sadness and anger to guilt and relief. Recognize that these feelings are part of the grieving process and allow yourself to experience them without judgment. It’s a crucial step in the healing journey.

2. Share Stories and Positive Memories

Talking about your parent, sharing stories, and recalling positive memories can be a source of comfort. It helps in keeping the spirit of your loved one alive and can be a way to celebrate their life rather than focusing solely on their death. Sharing anecdotes with family members or friends who knew your parent can also help in strengthening bonds and finding communal solace.

3. Seek Support Groups

Joining support groups can be incredibly beneficial. These groups provide a sense of community and understanding from others who have experienced a similar loss. Sharing your experiences and hearing others’ stories can provide comfort and insights into the grieving process. It reminds you that you’re not alone in your journey.

4. Take Care of Your Mental Health

Grief can have a significant impact on your mental health, leading to conditions like depression or anxiety. It’s crucial to be mindful of changes in your mood, behavior, or thoughts. Engaging in activities that promote mental wellbeing, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies, can be helpful. Remember, taking care of your mental health is not a luxury, but a necessity.

5. Seek Professional Help if Needed

If your grief feels overwhelming or unmanageable, seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Therapists and counselors specialize in grief can provide valuable guidance and coping strategies. They can help you navigate through complex emotions and offer support in a safe, non-judgmental space.

6. Explore Grief Works App

The Grief Works app is a unique resource for those mourning the loss of a loved one. Inspired by Julia Samuel’s bestselling book, it offers a structured course that helps you understand and manage your grief. The app also provides community support, allowing you to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. It’s a tool that can complement personal coping strategies and professional help.


Remember, there is no “right” way to experience grief. Everyone’s journey is unique. While you may feel sad for a long time, with the right support and coping strategies, you can find your way through the grieving process. Embracing your feelings, sharing stories, cherishing positive memories, and seeking support can all play a crucial role in healing.

Grief can affect us deeply, but it can also lead to growth and a deeper appreciation for the connections we have with our family members. If you’re struggling, consider exploring resources like the Grief Works app for additional support. Remember, it’s okay to seek help and to take the time you need to heal.