Dealing with grief – the death of an estranged parent

Almost a year has passed since the death of my estranged father

Grief is a funny thing. It comes in waves when you least expect it. The most unexpected feelings emerge at the news of a loved-ones death. The news of the death of an estranged parent is something I found very hard to process.

I didn’t see my father when I was growing up, after the age of about 9. He only lived a few miles away but made a new life with a new family. For the longest time I beat myself up over why he didn’t love me. Surely if he had he would have sent presents at Christmas and birthdays, at least paid maintenance. Anyway, he didn’t and I grew up bitter.

Eventually I met my estranged father again

I had a child of my own and wanted to see if we could have some sort of relationship, he was a grandfather and I thought I owed it to my son to try and give him a relationship with him.

It did not work. I asked for the past to be kept in the past but it was brought up time and time again. Things I knew were not true, things that did not add up. So I decided to walk away. It was a hard decision and one I have regretted on occasion since his death but I made it for the right reasons.

Then I got a text late one night to say my father had passed away

It was totally unexpected. All those thoughts and feeling came rushing back.

Over that time I have felt loss, guilt, sadness, emptiness, but most of all a longing for something that I never had and could never be. I didn’t have a Dad. I had no Father Figure in my life. I look at Vince, my partner, my children’s father, and I cannot imagine for a second that he would allow their relationship to sour in the way mine did with my father.

My father was adopted, this was used by him as an excuse for many of his failings. He longed for a family of his own yet  abandoned me in the same way he was abandoned. That is a bitter pill to swallow. After meeting him as an adult I realised I wasn’t to blame. It was his failing, not mine. I was a 7 year old child when he left and he was the adult. You cannot force someone to love you, not even your own parent.

The support surrounding the loss of an absent parent is very different 

Prior to the death of my father I have to admit I was the same. If someone had said their estranged parent had passed away, well, they didn’t have a relationship with them anyway, so what?

However it’s not like that at all. Grief for an estranged parent is very complicated. As I said you have a lot of feelings and nowhere in particular to direct them. It is almost as if you don’t deserve to grieve.

I have a half sister (by my father) and, although they had become estranged over recent years, she was offered lots of support from her friends and family as she had grown up with him. I was not, I assume, because I did not.

I also have friends whose parents passed away and were offered lots of support while grieving

People went to the funerals, sent flowers. That wasn’t my experience. As I said I would have been the same.

I recently had this discussion with my uncle (my mum’s brother) with who I have always been quite close. I mentioned to him that our family hadn’t reacted to the loss of my father, his reply was “why should they?”. As if it was a given. I didn’t have a relationship with him anyway, so what?

I explained that it was final. That was it. There was no chance for him to express remorse. There was now no chance for reconciliation. All I’d ever really wanted to hear was “I’m sorry”. 

I am writing this to tell you how I felt and that people in my position DO need that kind of support

I have to admit that friends messaged me who themselves had lost parents, and I dismissed my grief to them “it’s not the same”. I felt guilty for accepting sympathy from someone who was grieving their REAL parent, but I shouldn’t have. And I appreciate them reaching out.

Of course it is very different. I did not lose someone I spoke to every day. Someone I loved with all my heart. NO. I lost someone I SHOULD HAVE had that relationship with but, for one reason or another, was robbed of that. 

I don’t blame my friends and family for the lack of support. That sounds awful, it wasn’t a lack of support as such, more not realising that support was needed. There are no cards for “Sorry your absent parent died”.  What do you even say to someone who loses someone they didn’t actually know?

It is still the loss of a parent though and your grief is still real

Despite not actually knowing the person that well your feelings, whatever they are, are still valid. 

I guess what I am trying to say is please treat someone’s loss as you would the loss of any parent. They would still like a card, or flowers, or offers to attend the funeral, or a cry over a bottle of wine.

loss, grief, separation, mourn, estranged parent



  1. Niki April 27, 2019
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    • Erica April 29, 2019
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