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For a child, the death of a parent, without support to manage the effects of the grief, may result in long-term psychological harm. This is more likely if the adult carers are struggling with their own grief and are psychologically unavailable to the child. There is a critical role of the surviving parent or caregiver in helping the children adapt to a parent's death. Studies have shown that losing a parent at a young age did not just lead to negative outcomes; there are some positive effects. Some children had an increased maturity, better coping skills and improved communication. Adolescents valued other people more than those who have not experienced such a close loss.
When an adult child loses a parent in later adulthood, it is considered to be "timely" and to be a normative life course event. This allows the adult children to feel a permitted level of grief. However, research shows that the death of a parent in an adult's midlife is not a normative event by any measure, but is a major life transition causing an evaluation of one's own life or mortality. Others may shut out friends and family in processing the loss of someone with whom they have had the longest relationship.
An adult may be expected to cope with the death of a parent in a less emotional way; however, the loss can still invoke extremely powerful emotions. This is especially true when the death occurs at an important or difficult period of life, such as when becoming a parent, at graduation, or at other times of emotional stress. It is important to recognize the effects that the loss of a parent can cause, and to address these effects. For an adult, the willingness to be open to grief is often diminished. A failure to accept and deal with loss will only result in further pain and suffering.
- ↑ Ellis, J, Lloyd-Williams, M (July 2008). Perspectives on the impact of early parent loss in adulthood in the UK: narratives provide the way forward. European Journal of Cancer Care: 317–318.
- ↑ Marshall, H (2004). Midlife loss of parents: The Transition from Adult Child to Orphan. Ageing International 29 (4): 351–367.