The One Overwhelming Loss We Don't Talk About When A Parent Is Sick

Grief is an echo, an endless transition we make our way through.

father and daughter on hospital bed with childhood imagery in the background Tirachard Kumtanom via Shutterstock / JERSH via Canva / Hana El Zohiry, kabita Darlami, Alba Rebecca, Raj Rana and Bethany Beck via Unsplash

Losing a parent is a deeply transformative moment. With that loss, we cross a threshold into a precise form of adulthood, releasing the tethers held by the people who raised us.

Anyone who’s experienced walking a loved one through illness has heard the platitudes that are supposed to soothe us: "You’re so brave. You’re so strong." These statements are made with kind intentions, meant to offer recognition for how hard the journey toward mourning is.


But there’s one overwhelming loss we don’t talk about when a parent is sick— losing our childhood.

Robyn, who’s known on TikTok by the username GirlBossTown, uses her platform to cover celebrity gossip and trends, while simultaneously sharing her grief journey. She discusses how she navigated losing her mom when she was a teenager, and her vulnerability is deeply felt by over 600,000 followers.

In one emotionally perceptive TikTok, Robyn shared footage of herself as a child, set to the Billie Eilish song, “What Was I Made For,” from the Barbie movie. As the screen flashes with grainy images of her and her mom together, the voice of Rhea Perlman playing Ruth Handler, says, “Take my hands. Close your eyes. Now, feel.”


At the moment when that line is said in the Barbie movie, Barbie is standing on a precipice, deciding whether she wants to stay as the doll she is or become human. Handler, who invented Barbie, invites her to witness the light and shadows that make people into people.

For Robyn to frame losing her mom with this particular scene highlights how a parent’s death reveals the vulnerable and very human sides of ourselves. The text overlaid on Robyn’s post proclaims, “Grieving the loss of your childhood when you have a sick parent at a young age isn’t spoken about enough.”



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In the caption, she notes, “I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to either.”

In the comments section, Robyn’s followers shared how deeply resonant they found her expression of grief. 

As one person said, “It feels like you spend your whole life grieving."

"Pre-grieving before they pass for the things they won’t be there for," the continued. "Grieving again when they pass.”

“Feel this too much,” someone else commented. “You lose your childhood when you then have to become the parent to your remaining parent [and] also parent yourself.”

In another TikTok, Robyn spoke candidly about how her mom died and the echoes of mourning that still touch her life, years after her loss.


“My mom had a brain aneurysm when I was 15 years old,” she explained. “She was in the hospital and then [in] treatment for around 5 months. She ended up having a full recovery from her brain aneurysm, and was able to drive, walk, [and] talk, which was great.”

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“Then, 6 months after that, she got a rare form of anal cancer… She was treated for that type of cancer for 6 months, and then the doctor said she was cancer-free and good to go, so she stopped receiving treatment. But 6 months after that, she woke up one day, paralyzed from the neck down, and died 7 days later, because the cancer was actually growing inside of her the entire time she stopped treatment."


"It was really traumatic," Robyn said. "I had to grieve my mom twice. I had to grieve my normal mom and my sick mom.”

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One person expressed gratitude that she shared her grief journey and her pain.

Doing so normalizes the process for those in it and for those who are witnesses.

Others noted how validated they felt hearing Robyn discuss the multilayered grief she felt while mourning the normal version of her mom along with the sick version. As someone mentioned, “No one talks about grieving your ‘normal’ parent… my mom is still alive, but I’ve had to let go of my ‘normal’ mom.”


The deep resonance that Robyn’s followers found in her classification of grief shows how losing a loved one is a complex and messy process, where our emotions don’t fit into any defined boxes. 

Robyn made a separate TikTok post on July 27, 2023, marking her ninth year without her mother. She contemplated the meaning of the word “goodbye,” a word we use casually, without considering that last goodbye we’ll someday find ourselves saying. 

“The day my mom died, nothing happened,” she said, capturing the strange sensation of watching the world move past, as your own life stutters. Robyn took note of the details on the day her mom died — the outfit she wore, the food she ate, the texts her friends sent. She spoke to the way she was forced to move forward, all while missing a huge part of her heart. 

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“I lost my childhood in that hospital hallway that day,” she explained. “I became a teen mom, in a sense, and had to raise myself, which comes with strength and perspective.”

“But when people comment things like, ‘You are so strong, or, it made you stronger,’ it reminds me that praise of strength forgets to address the pain of losing the innocence that comes with it,” she continued. “I feel like even if it made me stronger, sometimes what’s really needed in life is weakness, stillness, vulnerability, being taken care of.” 

Robyn’s commemoration of the day her mom died marks a pivotal moment. In saying goodbye to the woman who gave her life, she lost an essential part of herself — her youth. She was forced to let go of her childhood identity, as mourning pushed her mercilessly forward, into a raw, and ever-unfolding future.


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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers relationships, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.