Recovering from the loss of a parent

Updated: Aug 4

Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Jameel, our Community Education intern, who is a 21-year-old psychology student.


Losing family is not easy, but unfortunately, it is a part of life we all experience. From the loss of loved ones, we learn a lot about who we are. Dealing with loss and the feelings that accompany it are complex and may take time. It is important to remember that there is no way to handle it which is universal. Recovering from it is a process you cannot put a time on or something you can hope to rush.


Firstly I want to emphasize that this is my experience and may be completely different to yours, which is okay! In 2018 I lost my dad to stomach cancer. Our relationship was not the best throughout my life. I tried to rebel at every chance I got. It felt like we did not see anything the same, and we did not get on. By the time he was sick, we were at a much better place, and it seemed unfair that we were running out of time. My dad had a brief battle with cancer. The diagnosis came in August, and he passed away in November. Everything happened very quickly, and my thoughts did not have time to catch up to what was happening. Losing a parent is strange, and having it happen at 19 confuses things more because there is so much adult life where you need guidance.


The months after his passing were tumultuous. It felt as though my life was different, and I didn’t know how to adjust to the new reality. I missed him and noticed him slipping away as time passed. Six months after his passing, I took a trip to Fiji, where our family is from, and where my dad had done a bit of philanthropy work. Talking to people, he had helped and how fondly they spoke of him made him feel close to me again. I felt a connection with him and realised that, in a sense, he will always be with me. That trip was significant for me to find peace. It was a polarising trip, but there were still many feelings I was trying to process. I felt connected with him but still was lost about life without him.


From the months that followed until today, I learned many lessons from losing my dad, which I would like to share with you. As I mentioned, there is no right way of dealing with it. What worked for others may not work for you. At times no matter how hard you try, you cannot grieve as someone else has. You have to be kind to yourself. It may be frustrating or upsetting to learn how to live without them or try and function as you did before, but there is nothing wrong with that. You must not be too hard on yourself. Although moments with my dad could have been done differently, I also learned that I need to forgive myself for things during his life. Unfortunately, those things in the past cannot be changed and instead can be forgiven and accepted as part of a longer chain of events.


In a time of grieving, it is simple to get overpowered by the feelings and situation, and to feel lost in. However, I had my family and my mum who needed my support. I found that providing support was one of the best things for helping me. Being there for my mum was very important for me and gave us a chance to try and heal together. Support was a crucial part of the process for me. I have a fantastic partner who was there for all the ups and downs after he passed. So I spent a lot of time communicating my feelings to the people around me.


Although it is not easy to do during difficult times, I think an essential thing to do is talk about your feelings. It may feel as though people are not interested, or you may not want to bother people with your sadness. Believe me, when I say your feelings are not a bother. Please share your thoughts and emotions, and try your best to feel your feelings rather than avoiding them. If you are not comfortable discussing your feelings with anyone around you, there are some fantastic resources out there. Listed below will be some of the excellent resources where you can reach out. Talk about it, and remember you do not have to figure things out on your own. Support groups are a way to connect with people who are experiencing grief as well, and you may find solace in that environment.


Connecting with your spirituality is a way that some people find peace. Spirituality can mean religion; being connected to your faith may cause you to find a new perspective and help you deal with the grief. Spirituality can also mean other things, such as practising mindfulness or meditation. Taking out some time to face your thoughts and grief at hand is extremely valuable.


You can also do things in the name of the person you have lost to overcome your grief. I decided to run a half marathon to raise money for stomach cancers. Dedicating something to my dad was a method that helped me overcome my grief about losing him. You can plant a tree or donate some money, whatever feels right in honouring them. Creating a memory box where you collect some of the best memories or mementos of your loved one is another idea. In this memory box, you can write to them to say how you feel or even say thank you for the memories.


There is a popular model for grief which is known as the Kubler Ross model. Although you may have steps in a different order or steps that do not occur, it is good to conceptualize what you are feeling and what grief may be. According to the model, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Read more about it on our blog here.


Other resources for grief support:


Call or text Need to Talk? at 1737 at any time. You can speak with a trained counsellor.


Connect with Youthline via phone 0800376633, a text line: 234, an email talk@youthline.co.nz and an online chat https://www.youthline.co.nz/web-chat-counselling.html


There are multiple services provided here at Anxiety NZ. There is a 24/7 helpline: 0800 ANXIETY. There is also a range of psychologists, psychotherapists, or a psychiatrist that you can see at Anxiety NZ. Full-time tertiary students can have Studylink funded sessions if they meet the criteria. There are other possible ways of getting funding for our services. Talk to the organisation to find out more: 09 846 9776.


Wish You Were Here - Grief Support

A community for young people living with grief and loss in Aotearoa New Zealand. They aim to support people in their teens/20s/30s who are bereaved and grieving.

Loss and grief support-Grief Centre

The Grief Centre provides support, advice & counselling to help those affected by grief and loss

Skylight Trust

Information about grief and loss, support, counselling services and helplines.

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