Losing a Parent in Your 30s: What to Expect

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Losing a parent is a big deal and it does matter how old you are when your parent dies once you enter adulthood. The pain and loss you'll experience are different at age 20 than at 30 or 40. Although the experience of losing a parent is dissimilar for a child than for an adult, their loss is still painful but very different. 

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You'll never completely get over losing a parent at any age. Losing a parent in your 30s is different than losing a parent in your 20s, as it comes with its own set of disillusionment and sorrow.

There are some losses in life that the pain might be tempered with time, but it never really goes away when dealing with a parent's death. 

What’s It Like to Lose a Parent in Your 30s?

There are cycles of grieving, just as there are different types of grief that come with losing a parent in your 30s. What you’ll deal with in your 30s is different than what you experience when you lose a parent much later in life. 

The same is true when you lose both parents close together, regardless of your age at the time of their death. Their death will bring you to the edge of your mortality as you contemplate what it means to you now that your parents have died. You’ll soon realize that losing your parents in your 30s may be one of the significant milestones of becoming an adult.

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How Can You Deal With Losing a Parent in Your 30s?

After the death of your parent, you will undoubtedly question your mortality, the meaning of life, and every other philosophical question that you can consider having to do with death and dying. It is very normal, especially mostly if you've lost both of your parents in your 30s. 

When you start navigating life without the benefit of at least one of your parents, you may begin thinking about all the secondary losses and regrets that await you. Many people may have complicated feelings about the death of a parent, no matter how good or bad their relationship was. The following tips will help you deal with your parent's death and gain a different perspective on how you view death and your life ahead of you. 

1. Allow your emotions to surface

Cry and let it all out. Trying to hold it all together becomes fruitless when you’ve suppressed grief for weeks or months. You can expect your grief to spontaneously erupt when least expected whenever you’ve allowed it to fester without acknowledging that it’s there. Permitting yourself to grieve will help speed up the healing process.

Pent-up emotions have the potential to prolong your grief by not allowing you to deal with it as it comes up. The longer you suppress your grief, the longer it takes for you to work through it. Expect that you’ll cry a lot and at random times until your heart has sufficiently healed from the early stages of grief. 

2. Put your loss behind you

It may take you years to come to terms with the death of your parent. You can put your loss behind you as you continue through your grief journey, but you may never get over the pain. Your parent’s death forces you to grow up and learn to be self-sufficient much younger than most of your peer group.

It may cause you to panic realizing that you are facing a reality where you no longer have a parent to go to for support or ask for their advice when things get rough. When you feel the stress and anxiety of realizing that you’re on your own, it may become difficult to function in daily life. It’s essential to put your loss behind you while still making time to grieve your loss, not become frozen in fear and unable to live a healthy and productive life. 

3. Derive strength from their memory 

Use your parent’s memory to drive you into the future. Be cautious not to allow your pain and sorrow to withhold you from moving forward with your life and reaching the goals you’d once set out for yourself. Consider all of your parent’s advice to you as you were growing up, and use it as a foundation to build the life of your dreams that would make them proud.

You can’t go back in time and change things. You can only move forward and make the best of a painful situation. With patience, love, and understanding, you’ll move beyond your pain and suffering into a new life seeded in your parent’s loving guidance. 

4. Imagine their presence

There’s no denying that you’ll have days when you wish your parent were around to see your children grow up and for you to ask them for advice. You’ll ache for them to be here with you so that they can share in your life and the life of your children or their future grandchildren. Dealing with a mother’s death from cancer can be especially painful.

A sudden and unexpected death may leave you feeling hurt, angry, and resentful at everyone and everything around you. You may even catch yourself feeling jealous toward others for having a parent in their lives. An excellent way to combat these feelings is to talk to your parent as if they were still there and imagine their presence at every critical milestone in your life. 

5. Focus on the good 

Focus on all the fond memories of your parent while they were alive and make a mental note to yourself of all the good times you shared. Keeping stock of all the good times will help you to not live in regret after they die. A parent and an adult child’s relationship can tether between extreme love and adoration to utter annoyance.

How feelings fluctuate can be something as fleeting as a bad day at the office or a missed doctor's appointment. Perhaps the last conversation you had with your parent didn’t end so well, or maybe the two of you argued. Don’t let these very ordinary moments cloud your overall memory of them. Remember all the good times you shared and set your thoughts on those. 

6. Continue your life’s path

When you lose your parents in your 30s, you’re not yet fully aware of where your life is headed in the next decade or so. It’s tempting to change course after the death of a parent because you may start thinking that there’s no longer any point to it all.

Without your parent around, you may vow never to marry, seek a prestigious career, or accomplish anything significant in your life because you don’t have your parent’s support cheering you on. You may resent not having them around to see you achieve these milestones in life or to see you get married. 

7. Get out some more

Going for a walk outdoors will help you manage your grief. Exercise releases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemical your brain produces when you engage in physical activity.

Endorphins help counteract your sadness and grief for hours after you’ve participated in some form of physical activity. 

8. Expect a new type of pain

Should you decide on getting married, planning the wedding, and starting a family, you can expect a new wave of emotion to wash over you as you experience the pain of your loss all over again. All the milestones associated with becoming an adult won’t feel the same without your parent there. You’ll miss not having them around to share in this special day with you, and not having another grandparent around for your future children.

These realizations may hit you as they come, or they may rush in a flood of pain and disbelief. You may find yourself wishing your parent was there to see you get married and become a parent yourself. But, unfortunately, this is a painful part of your life that you’ll need to get through somehow.

9. Realize your peer group’s limitations

When you lose your parents in your 30s, you may be confronted with a sense of isolation as few of your friends may be able to relate to your experience.

The type of grief and loss associated with losing a parent is typically experienced much later in life. Your friends may present you with blank stares because they are unable to understand what it feels like to lose a parent. 

10. Find comfort in things left behind

Some days you’ll wish that your grief would go away, but you know the impossibility of such wishful thinking. Going through some of your parent’s things may help you learn more about them and get closer to them.

You may find out something about them that you never knew or unearth personality traits that they only showed off to their friends or through social media. 

11. Seek therapy

Counseling and therapy are not a fast track to healing or a cure-all to your pain and suffering. You still have to do the work both in and out your grief counseling sessions in order for you to progress through your pain.

You’ll need to take the time to discover your grief and acquaint yourself with your suffering in whatever time it takes for you to begin to heal from your loss. 

Coping With Your Parent’s Death in Your 30s

The loss of a parent may always have a profound and lasting effect on your psyche and your mental health. You may never completely get over the loss of a parent, but in time your pain will lessen, and you’ll learn to cope with your loss.

You’ll learn to tuck your pain away and allow it to resurface when it needs to. It gets better, but it takes time. Coping is about surviving, and surviving is only the first step in getting through your grief. 

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