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How To Deal With Losing a Parent, According to an Expert

Don't pressure yourself to address your emotions within a certain timeframe.

The loss of a parent can be completely devastating. It may be one of the most difficult things to ever endure. After all, it's saying goodbye to a bond with your number one since day one. The grieving process is a very personal experience, and everyone copes in their own way. We reached out to Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, psychiatrist, and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health to discuss how to deal with losing a parent.

"People may find that different coping strategies are more effective for them than others." Dr. Patel-Dunn explains. "Your coping strategy may depend on the relationship you had with your parent at the time of their passing, the circumstances surrounding your loved ones passing, and your own personal support network."

If you're in need of some guidance on how to deal with losing a parent, Dr. Patel-Dunn shares with us helpful ways to navigate your sadness.

Don't put pressure on yourself to address your emotions within a certain timeline.

woman upset on beach, demonstrating how to deal with losing a parent

Don't pressure yourself to address your emotions within a certain mourning period. Dr. Patel-Dunn advises, "A common misconception about grief is that after a set amount of time you are all done experiencing those emotions. In truth, coping strategies and time will make challenging emotions easier to manage, but it's possible to grieve a loved one for years to come." She continues to explain that it's healthy to let yourself feel your emotions and miss your beloved naturally at a pace that works best for you.

Feel comfortable remembering your loved one.

two women having serious conversation, talking at home

Feel comfortable remembering your loved one. Directing the conversation can help others understand your comfort level. It may even help you feel closer to their loss as well. "When we lose someone close to us, those around us may not want to bring them up in conversation for fear of upsetting us," Dr. Patel-Dunn points out. If you're comforted when talking about the deceased parent, she says, "I'd encourage you to bring them up in conversation—what you miss about them, what they would say if they were here, your favorite recipe of theirs or a specific memory."

Related: Signs A Loved One May Be Struggling With Their Mental Health

Reach out to family members and friends who were close to your loved one.

hand holding grieving

Dr. Patel-Dunn also recommends reaching out to family members and friends who were close to your loved one. She says, "Along with talking about your loved one with your own support network, it can also be helpful to reach out to those who knew and loved your parent best." This can include siblings, close colleagues, best friends, and close neighbors—people from the past or present.

Seek the help of a therapist who can help you navigate your emotions.

mature therapist helping female patient regarding how to deal with losing a parent

Consulting with a therapist can aid in navigating your feelings. Dr. Patel-Dunn explains, "Losing a parent, regardless of your relationship with them or the circumstances around it, is a time that can feel overwhelming and bring up very challenging emotions." She adds, "Speaking with a licensed mental health professional can help you navigate those emotions during this time."

Therapy is instrumental in addressing how to cope with missing your loved one and learning how common it is to have the feelings you're experiencing. Some other points you can explore in therapy include any uneasiness you may feel moving forward in life without your parent and how common it is to have so many emotions. Therapy is a prime opportunity to learn habits you can ease into your daily schedule for recovery.

Dr. Patel-Dunn advises, "My first tip would be to try your best to follow your self-care basics and a general routine. Try to get up and go to bed at the same times that you normally would even if you took time off from work. Try to exercise and move your body, even if it's just a short walk outside."

Be sure to get together with your friends and family for support when you need them. "Even if you don't want to talk about your loss specifically, but just need a friend to talk to, it's okay to call them and talk about your favorite book, or something that you read online. Craving regular connection is healthy for any routine," Dr. Patel-Dunn concludes.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa