I was supposed to be ready

Nancy Stordahl

The expectation when you lose a parent is that somehow it is to be expected and that this makes the grief more bearable and less painful. But those of us who have experienced this loss tell a different story. In today’s guest post, Nancy Stordahl offers insight and practical advice to those of us who are mourning the loss of a beloved parent. 

I was supposed to be ready when my mother passed away recently. I was supposed to be ready to say goodbye. After all, she was in her late seventies. I was not a child or even a young adult. It is assumed that losing your mother at a younger age is more traumatic and detrimental. That’s probably true. At my age I was supposed to be ready. Her cancer had been diagnosed four years earlier, so I was supposed to be ready. Her health had been rapidly declining before my eyes and she was living out her final days in a nursing home, so I was supposed to be ready. I knew the end was coming, so I was supposed to be ready. But I was not.

Society gives few messages and the ones that are given seem mixed about how to “appropriately” grieve for parents. In his book, When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults, Edward Myers states:

Loss of a parent is the single most common form of bereavement in this country. Yet the unstated message is that when a parent is middle-aged or elderly, the death is somehow less of a loss than other losses. The message is that grief for a dead parent isn’t entirely appropriate.
When we lose a parent, we are supposed to be prepared for this normal life passage, or at least be  more ready to accept it when it does happen. We are expected to pick ourselves up, close the wound quickly and move on. We should not require so much time to “get over it.” This loss is expected and in the natural order of things.

However, just because losing a parent is so common place and in the natural order of things, that does not mean a person can or should be expected to simply bounce back. On the contrary, losing a parent is extremely difficult for most adult children if you have had a good relationship with your parent and even if you haven’t. In fact, sometimes the latter makes it even more difficult due to unresolved issues or conflicts.

So, remember that losing a parent can be unexpectedly devastating and cause considerable upheaval in even an adult son or daughter’s life. Maybe that sounds like stating the obvious, but I think it’s worth saying anyway. The magnitude of this loss can take you by surprise and helpful resources are not that plentiful.


1. Don’t expect to be ready, you won’t be.
2. Never let anyone belittle this loss or hurry you through your grief. You need to experience all of its intensity.
3. Grieving for a parent, just like all grieving, takes considerable hard work emotionally, physically and spiritually.
4. All of this work takes time, the process must not be hurried.
5. Even as an adult, don’t be surprised by your feelings of abandonment and uncertainty.
6. After they’re gone your parent will continue to be a part of your life, just in a different sense. You are still their son or daughter.
7. Remember once you do emerge on the other side of grief, you will be forever changed, but in some ways stronger and maybe even better.


Visit www.nancyspoint.com to read more of Nancy’s writings.