Goodbye, again. Navigating Grief as an Abandoned Child.

Vivien Grace
9 min readDec 25, 2020

There is no roadmap for dealing with the death of an absent, estranged parent.

This is odd, seeing as how roughly 25% of children in America live in a single-parent household (www.pewresearch.org/).

The relationship I had with my father was a series of fractures, each one nearly as painful as death itself. Abandonment and estrangement are not uncommon in American society, but as far as I know, there is no protocol, no “how-to” guide for handling the emotional fallout.

The first ‘death’ is the realization that your parent cannot or will not parent, and never plans to put your needs above his or her own. You are on your own, like it or not.

The second death, for my brother and me, was when my father decided to move 2000 miles away. We were teenagers. He did not come back to visit, nor did he send a plane ticket.

The third death was the most painful, up until the real one occurred. After years of frustrating conversations with her father, we each decided that estrangement was the healthiest option.

Most children outlive their parents and are left with the responsibility of sorting affairs, funeral arrangements, and of course grieving.

Society expects a certain protocol, in which the adult children step up to the plate when a parent passes.

When it was my time to step up, I tried my best, but ultimately I just could not perform.

In a typical scenario, the adult child graciously receives sympathy calls, flowers, cards, and well wishes shed a few tears, and then begins making funeral arrangements and tidying up financial and property matters. The adult child or siblings are now in charge and will honor the late parent with their actions.

They should do so with a stiff upper lip, and treat the deceased as a hero, sweeping away their shortcomings and sending them into the great hereafter with dignity and respect.

This seems reasonable after a lifetime of loving care, financial support, and happy memories in a healthy parent-child relationship.

This paradigm gets tricky when the deceased parent does not fit this mold.

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Vivien Grace

Solo Female Traveler & Writer Wellness Junkie | Allergy Queen 🌎🛍️✈️ 5-Star taste on a 2-Star Budget.