3 Ways To Grieve A Parent Who Will Never Be What You Need Them To Be

Become the broken link that heals.

Woman grieving a parent who will never be what she needs them to be. Africa images | Canva

Grieving the loss of a parent before their death is a challenge, but the benefits are life-changing.

Here are 3 ways to grieve a parent who will never be what you need them to be, according to YourTango experts:

1. The answer lies in the question: You grieve

Mourning the loss of what could have been is a form of death. You have to allow yourself to grieve the loss. Those of us who long for love from a parent and cannot receive it must accept that our parents will never be what we want or need them to be. The notion that they can become a loving parent and develop a good relationship with us is an illusion. The imaginary version of them that we wish existed needs to “die” so we can see our parents for who they truly are. This may mean cutting off contact completely or learning to appreciate the small acts of love as pleasant surprises, rather than signs of hope the relationship will evolve.


Erika Jordan, Dating Coach

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2. Let go of those expectations

Learning to accept who people really are, and not who we want them to be, is one of life's greatest challenges and also blessings. Letting go of those expectations, and instead discovering the blessings in who they are, will allow you to create an authentic relationship if possible. If it's not possible, letting go of this person who is not healthy for you to have in your life, even if they are a parent, will open up your life to new relationships — new mentors, people whom you admire who can inspire you to grow. If you can find gratitude for what your parent was able to offer you, you will likely expedite the healing process.


Jennifer Hargrave, Owner, Hargrave Family Law

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3. Be the broken link in the chain

One constructive solution is to intentionally behave differently toward your own children or children in your life. This will stop the chain of neglect, harm, or trauma from going forward into another generation.


Aline Zoldbrod Ph.D., Award-winning author, psychologist

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The process of grieving what a parent could be, but chooses not to be, can lead to estrangement or acceptance. Grieving this loss requires self-focus to acknowledge the grief is yours only and was manifested by expectations. External factors influence the need to grieve, but the loss is yours, no one else's.


Once you have grieved your loss, it clears the mind and heart to let go of the expectations you had of your parent, so you can accept how your parent couldn't fulfill your expectations due to factors most likely beyond their ability to manage. You recognize the expectation itself is yours.

This is how we can heal and gain knowledge to stop disruptive familial cycles that set us up for failure as children, parents, and communities. Grieve your loss, dispel expectations, and be the broken link who heals.

Mother and daughter embrace so they don't have to grieve PeopleImages.com - Yuri A via Shutterstock


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Will Curtis is a writer and editor for YourTango. He's been featured on the Good Men Project and taught English abroad for ten years.