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Losing a parent in early adulthood


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I know there are a lot of us *here* who lost our parents in this time frame, and that's why I'm asking.

Is it just me, or do those of us who lost one or both parents in early adulthood (20s-early 30s) seem displaced among grievers--at least among grievers of parents?

I ask because I notice a lot of articles and resources dealing with the loss of one's mother or father during childhood--i.e. before 18 years of age, and all the rest of the articles/literature seem to focus on 'losing a parent as an adult' like when you are middle-aged or even older... Often highlighting the general decline and aging pattern and the worries of the 'sandwich generation.'

I guess I ask because, for me at least, I felt like I lost my Mom at a really pivotal moment in my life. I was a newlywed, a brand new Mom just really starting out on the path of 'adulthood.' I was only 24 when Mom died. I felt like this brought about a set of issues unique to this timeframe and position in my life that I wasn't seeing reflected in many things that I read.

I get really frustrated when folks, while not meaning harm, invoke the 'we all lose our parents' idea. And also the 'well you are an adult now so it shouldn't be so bad and it could have been so much worse' idea. I AM grateful for the 24 years I had with my Mom, but I wished for so many more and never thought I wouldn't have so many more. Both of these sentiments which I have both heard and read (often in prettier language) really make me feel minimized. While losing a parent is the supposed 'normal' course of events, there didn't seem to be anything 'normal' about losing Mom when I did. And anyway--when did 'normal' equate to 'easy?'

Additionally.... the timing of losing my Mom superimposed on having my first child--with her diagnosis during my pregnancy, and her death when Carolyn was so tiny seems to change the quality of things as well. To be honest, it really has seemed to complicate my grief. Does anyone relate to that?

So I thought I'd throw it out there--anyone else feel displaced? Does anyone have any clue about the general feeling that I am trying to express? Or am I just being over-sensitive again.

Now I'm NOT saying that losing my mother at this time in my life is 'harder' or 'worse' than at any other. I know it would be hard ANYTIME it might have happened. I AM asking if anyone else relates to the idea that parental loss in the early-adult stage of life raises different issues than those typically addressed.

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I can totally relate to what you've written in your post.

When I was searching out literature at book stores after Mom's death, I did notice an absence of information/resources for younger adults having lost a parent.

Even Ms. Edelman's book Motherless Daughters focusses more on young girls and teenagers rather than those of us who were a little older or significantly older than that. I can tell you it did make me feel lonely to read it at the time.

I can also say that being in this age group (in my case my late 20s) did present some pretty specific challenges. At the forefront was my desire to be a child (ie. a desire to regress) and the realization that I couldn't - that I had responsibilities, planning to do, etc... I'm sure that's not a unique feeling, but I think I felt it more keenly because of my age.

I also have been struggling with getting engaged without Mom, being married without her and then birthing kids without her wise counsel. I'll get through it - like everyone else does - but I am feeling the loss rather keenly. A sense of being orphaned, I guess.

I'd love to read what anyone else has to say. Great post!


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I have to agree with you in that losing your parent at your age is very different from losing your parent when you are older.

I see what my children are going through with losing their father at their ages, 24 and 27 when Randy passed. And their loss is very different than mine in losing both my mother and father, as I was older when both my folks passed.

I see the results of their fathers passing in day to day events. The planning of our daughters wedding has brought this loss acutely to the forefront.

I do understand where you are coming from. You do have unique challenges ahead of you.

May you find your way with all the dignity that your mother's memory deserves.

Praying for us all.


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Yes, Val, I can understand. My father died when I was 23 and my mother died a year later. It was before I was married. So my life with my parents was completely separate from my life with Lucie and my own family. When I married Lucie, I gained a mother-in-law who was like a second mother to me and I had her in my life for 34 years. (Lucie's dad died when she was 16.) So I can see short range and long range parent loss.

It has been hard for me to understand the deep grief I see when others lose parents after having them in their lives for a good time. I tend to think, "But you had them for so many years with so much life. I would love to have had that kind of time." But I have come to understand their view that their parents were in their lives for so long, it leaves a very big hole. So, we all need to grieve no matter when our parents leave us. It is a dramatic change, no matter when. Don

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Displaced? Never really thought about it that way.

Mom was diagnosed when I was 24 then died when I was 27 & Dad at 32. I didn't have a FIL ever (he died when hubby was 24) and my MIL lived distantly. It's been 23 years and, though I still love and miss them, I don't know my "adult" life with them. I always looked at my sister-in-law who lost her Mom at 18 and figured I was pretty lucky. I was pregnant with my twins when my Mom was diagnosed and she was able to see all my children before she died. I was glad for that and saw the sadness in one of my siblings who had kids after our parents died. I guess raising and caring for a family didn't give me much time to dwell on this issue. The internet seems to have added another dimension to "modern" grief where there is more of a forum to explore these feelings. I'm not sure whether that is good, bad, or doesn't matter.

One thought has been in my mind since my husband's diagnosis. I figure God knew that I wouldn't be able to cope with aging parents and an ill husband at the same time. I've seen my siblings and in-laws dealing with aging parents and I really don't know how I would have managed both.

I'm also the first among my siblings to deal with a spouse who has a terminal illness. I'm the youngest in the family, yet my hubby is the oldest and I still don't feel "displaced".

The only time in my life I did feel out of step with others was when I hit menopause at 34! :shock: (Probably helped wipe out a lot of emotions and feelings along with a lot of brain function. :? )

So there it is!


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I understand what you mean. I think Katie put it well...cheated is EXACTLY how I feel.

30 is too young to lose my dad. He was too important to me. Too much of a part of my life. This was unfair and it is still just so hard for me to handle...and for me it has only been a month, so it is still very raw...but I definitely feel like I was robbed of much.

I don't know who will walk me down the aisle when I marry. I don't know if my three-year-old daughter will remember her Pap-pap. I am grateful for the time I did have with him, but it was not long enough.

great post.


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I understand you in a different way,

I only knew one grand father, and I

still wonder at my age (79) on all I

missed in life because they were gone.

Yes, the issues are different and will

be there all the time, the continuity

has been broken and can't be corrected

for you and your children.

I hurt for all those that did not have

the chance of having their parents for

a long time.

Take care



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I too understand how you feel, though I haven't lost a parent yet. My 67 y/o step fil (whom I'm not close to at all) is caring for his 90 y/o mother and complaining about it every step of the way. I was just saying how unfare that is that I'm 34 and faced with the possibilities of losing my dad. I'm sure most of us would welcome the opportunity to be taking care of parents at the age of 67! I too feel cheated. I'm the youngest in my family and my sibling's kids are just about grown. I have a 4 y/o and a 22 month old. My dad's grandchildren are the light of his life and I couldn't wait for him to do things with my kids. Now, I'm praying he's around long enough for them to at least remember him. I know he will never be able to do the things with my kids that he did with his other grandkids. So, yeah I sure do feel cheated.

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Oh boy, where to start.

I have a foot in both camps here, lost my Mom at 16 which makes me a child and my Dad at 23 which makes me the young adult.

The two experiences were totally different, my Mom, just by virtue of being my Mom, left a far bigger hole. I never had an 'adult' conversation with her, I was 15 when she got sick and hadn't gotten to the age where either of my parents were actually human beings who knew anything.

I knew my Dad much better, those 7 years without my Mom probably meant that I knew him more than I would have done had she lived. I knew what made him tick, I didn't know my Mom as a woman only as my Mom........she took care of me but I didn't know the woman inside.

I guess losing a parent is hard at any age, hopefully my daughter will be a much older woman when she experiences the loss but I don't think there is an up-side to any age group.


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Boy do I!!!

Your words are very powerful and really get down on "paper" so many of my feelings and my fears.

To one day have children was a joy I was going to share with my wife AND my mother...now I have lost a third of the joy. As disfunctional or weird as itr sounds...kids with 2/3s the joy does not appeal to me...we really did lose mom at such a pivotal time.

And no one (except us) really gets it.

I am going to think on this some more...I have a lot to write I think...but it is swirling at the moment.

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I am 41 and feel I've lost my Mother too young. Being a late bloomer, I married just one month before she passed. It was wonderful having both my parents present at my wedding,yet knowing her time was limited. I miss sharing my new marriage with her. She only visited our home one time and that was before I lived there. Although I feel so lucky she saw my house at all and that she was able to be at my wedding, I grieve that she doesn't know me as a wife and Step Mom. Everyday I wish I could share what is happening in my life these days and knowing I will never be able to hurts greatly. I have two wonderful step daughters, whom she met but she was very ill and there was much more for them and her to know about each other.

I haven't found any good books either for dealing with this. It leaves a huge whole - just when my life was really starting to get somewhere - poof Mom is not there.

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Yep. I am blessed that my mom met both of my sons, but my mom made me a better mom. She always had all of the answers on how to deal with particular behaviors and stages my boys were going through. She plain and simple made me a more fun mom. Sometimes when I am griping at one of them, I think of her and how she might show me how to deal with the situation better or just be there to give me a break by entertaining them with one of her oh so silly games. God I miss her. I need her.

Orphaned at 33 is not OK. I was robbed. Maybe I'll write more later :cry:

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I'm 25 and my mom is 41, we've practically grown up together. I'm completely paralyzed with the fear of losing her at this point in my life.

One thing the cancer has done, though, is made me realize that whether I get 5 more years or 40 more years, I will cherish every moment of it. When she was first diagnosed, I knew all too well that if the cancer was bad enough, we could loose her within months and I think I almost grieved her death then in those hours when we didn't know how bad (or fortunately in our case, how good) it was.

Knowing that, if I DO luck out and get 40 more years with her, I know that it would still be the hardest thing I'd ever do to let go, but I'd do so with tremendous gratitude that I was fortunate enough to keep her when I could have very well lost her this year.

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I don't know what to say, for some reason this one really bowled me over (I never think my grief is harder or anything I think that there are so many here that are in their late 20's to late 30's with young kids).

My Dad left when I was (32 and he was 56) finally realizing the gifts he had to offer instead of dwelling on what he never did as a part time dad, I feel like my mom left (I am 36 she was 58 ) just when things were getting good, and I can't talk to either one about it. I feel very alone, My kids have been cheated out of a 'normal, happy' childhood because I have been so steeped in grief for the last 3 1/2 years, first with dad, then moms diagnosis and her death...

I read motherless daughters too, it had a lot about younger women, but I would be interested in something more geared to 30 somethings and maybe, losing both parents.

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My mother in law passed away 3 years ago at the age of 61--I was 32. Two months later my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 62. My mom passed away a year ago at the age of 64 and I turned 35. When my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, she was just one month away from being 5 years free of breast cancer!

My sister, who is 2 years younger than me, had her first baby one month after my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had her second baby the day before my mom passed away. My sister was able to check out of the hospital early and bring her new son(who was less than 24 hours old)to see my mom. Mom passed away an hour after she held her new grandson.

I am totally at a loss for what is "normal." I miss my mom everyday and want to call her everyday. My kids, who are 10 and 8, have lost both of their grandmas. I didn't lose my grandparents until just a couple years ago and they were in their 80's. I don't know how to deal with all of this at this age. My relationship with my sister is at a different level because we don't have our mother and I sometimes want to do what my Mom would have done for the grandkids.

Gosh Val, you are younger than me, and I think you are really strong! I am now too dealing with the situation of my Dad getting engaged before my mom was gone one year to someone he only dated for 2 months!!! That has almost been a loss in itself.

I've just read what I wrote and I didn't intend to write all of this and be so depressing. The posts just opened a lot of anger, sadness, and I guess just pure loss. Sometimes, I just don't know how my mom did all she did!


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I definitely relate to this as well. I am 35 and have a 2 year old son. He was Mom's only grandson and the best medicine Mom received during her battle but I doubt he'll remember her. My brother and his wife are expecting their first child in May and he just doesn't seem as happy as he should be.

Growing up, my Grandparents were a huge part of my life and my son and his cousin won't have the same experience. My FIL passed from kidney cancer 6 years ago. I just feel like a huge part of my son's heritage is gone. I value all the time I had with my Grandparents so much that it really makes me sad my son will miss it.

Definitely there are different issues.

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I have to agree with Don in that I don't think age makes a difference in our feelings of loss either. I lost my dad when I was 17 and he really was the man in my life. I lost my mom when I was 35 and she really did become more then just a mom to me, she really was my best friend. I was a single mom raising two wonderful kids at the time I lost my mom and I was so scared and so alone. When I lost my mom, I not only had to deal with my greif and my feelings but at the age of 35 I had to watch my kids (ages 15 & 11) go through there greif as well. And honestly, I sometimes think that was harder on me then my own grief.

I think for me the difference was when I lost BOTH of my parents. Then as Katie said, I felt like an orphane. I felt like my life lines were gone my roots had left me. I felt misplaced.

As years have gone on, I see things differently now.

But I do remember having all those feelings too.

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Connie, I agree with you to an extent about feelings. I don't think that our age necessarily effects the *intensity* of our feelings... But I do think that it changes the things we are feeling *about,* and you illustrated that beautifully with your worries about your sons and your position as a single parent. I'm not saying that it feels 'better' or 'worse' at ANY time to lose a beloved parent (or anyone for that matter). What I am exploring is the idea that this age group has some unique issues that aren't often addressed in the typical 'grief stuff resources.' We seem to be too young to be 'normal,' and too old to be 'worried about.'

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Sorry Val, I wasn't disagreeing with your greif issues at all. I guess I was just expressing how I felt then, and how I feel now. Everyone feels so differently during greif. Your point was well worded. Sometimes I just don't word things the right way. :oops::wink: My brain goes one way and my fingers go the other. When I was 17 they didn't address greif in any way shape or form. Back then most of the time greif for all ages was swept under the table and we were told life goes on. Sad, but true. Things have changed so much over the years as to how people address greif.

I've attending Greif Support Groups and sadly most of the people in these groups are adult children (25 - 35 in age) that lost there parents. And of course widows and widowers. I think they are trying to bring attetion to those adult young people. I know at least here at the groups I have attended they do.

I know churchs and fureral homes are offering Greif support groups. I can't say anything about books, but I can about in person groups at least here in Minnesota.

Val, maybe you could work with your church or a funeral home and put together such a group. You could open doors for many of those that have the same needs you do. It's worth a try.

Best wishes.

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I am kind of in between the age groups; I was 40 when I lost my parents (last year), so I definitely am in the middle-aged category, yet I have two young children, so I identify with some of the "younger" adult issues that face the 20-somethings.

My girls are now 3 and 5. I have some guilt about not being able to take up more of the care-giving responsibilities of my dad; my mom shouldered most of the burden, and my dad's care was a bit complicated. I don't doubt that the strain of taking care of both her husband and herself shortened my mom's life, yet I know she would not have accepted a lot of help. I do believe that had I been able to be freer to offer assistance, she would have allowed me to do some more, though. But when you're juggling the glass balls of marriage, children, parent, sibling, and grandparent responsibilities, you can't hold any one ball too long, or the others will crash and shatter.

I'm sorry that you didn't find anything useful in Hope Edelman's book, "Motherless Daughters," Katie. I probably suggested it as a resource! :oops: It really does have some pearls of wisdon for women of all ages, and while its primary focus is on the women who have experienced that loss earlier in life, so many of the insights are valid for all ages. I took comfort in knowing that this grief is different, and that much of what I feel is normal and in varying degrees, universal.

I also read a good book about adult orphans and the grief. I'll look for it and post with the title.

Val, you are extremely eloquent and articulate. Ever think of authoring a book on grief/parent loss in the young adult?


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  • 2 weeks later...

I lost my mom at age 35 and 5 months pregnant with my first child. Although i wasn't as young as some of you ladies, this was a milestone in my life that should have been a much happier occasion.

Here is what I know about lung cancer. My mother never smoked, never had even a puff of a cigarette and died of lung cancer. She went into the hospital because she was dehydrated by pneumonia and possible gallstones. 4 days later she was told she had lung cancer. This was September 23rd. Two weeks later, on October 5th, she went to live with Jesus. I was the last person she spoke to befeore she fell back asleep and left us. My beautiful baby boy will never know his wonderful grandmother.

And this is all I know about the disease that stole my mother.


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  • 2 weeks later...

This thread really struck a chord with me tonight. I am constantly scouring the libraries and bookstores for some sort of book which might be something I could relate to and always found the same thing, that I was in that in-between category.

My Mum died when I was 33 years old and 34 weeks pregnant with my first baby. It was horrible. And it still is horrible as Mum hasn't come back. I am now 3 months pregnant with my second child and often struggle with the fact that I've become a Mum without my own Mum here. It just seems completely absurd to me that I can be doing all these really huge things like becoming a Mummy and she hasn't been here for any of it.

And then as always, there remains that part of me that dreads the day I don't feel this way. Sorry guys, just having a miserable day today. But I think I can relate to what Val was posting about (as usual!!!!).



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