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Grieving the Relationship You Wanted With Your Parents

Your relationship with your parents is the foundation of all relationships in your life. They’re the people that bring you into the world and show you love, safety, and understanding. For some people, however, their parents aren’t the people that show them love or teach them understanding. Even if their parents are trying their best, they’re lacking the skills to be the type of parents that they need. For people that are struggling with their relationship with their parents, it’s important to remember a few things. In this blog post, I am going to talk about how important it is to grieve the relationship you wanted with your parents in order to heal. This is not a quick process, nor is it an easy one, but it will be worth it.

Letting go of the fantasy of having the perfect relationship with one's parents can be a painful but necessary step in the grieving process.

  1. You are not hard to love just because your parents made you feel that way.

Some parents could have made comments that made you feel as though you were difficult to raise, and thus difficult to love. Regardless of if you were a temperamental teenager or a child that threw tantrums every day, you still deserved love. If you met a younger version of yourself, what would you say to yourself? Would you chastise yourself for having emotions or needing attention? Would you ignore your younger self and their needs? My guess is that you would treat your younger self with the kindness you deserve. It’s important to treat yourself now the same way you would treat your younger self. Give yourself the love you needed when you were a child - the love you wanted from your parents.

  1. Your relationship with your parents is not solely your responsibility to fix.

Let’s say you’ve decided that you want to try and mend the relationship with your parents. Despite your desire to, it may be difficult to fully forgive them and move on from the hurt you faced in the past. It’s even harder to do so if your parents aren’t willing to mend the relationship. Mending the relationship requires open communication between you and your parents to discuss the hurt you faced and the role they played in it. It can even be difficult to discuss this with your parents if they are the type of parents that simply say “I did my best” or “You don’t know how hard it is to be a parent”. This type of dismissal and refusal to admit that they did harm to you as a child can hinder the relationship further. If you experience this type of refusal, remember that you can only mend the relationship if your parents are willing to work on it with you. This is where a family counseling session might come in handy!

Grieving the loss of the relationship they wanted can involve a wide range of emotions, from anger and bitterness to sadness and regret.

2. Grieving is not just for when someone passes away.

When you’re faced with the reality that your parents are unable or unwilling to mend the relationship you want to fix, it’s important to grieve that. Grieving is a process we usually only discuss when talking about someone in our life passing away. We discuss the typical five stages of grief and we make sure that we’re prepared for anger, depression, bargaining, denial, and acceptance. However, this grieving process can also be applied to the loss of a relationship. When you’re ready to face the loss of the relationship you wanted to have with your parents, you can work toward the acceptance stage. Accepting the loss of this relationship is hard. Be gentle with yourself and recognize that grieving is not linear. There will be some days when you are angry with your parents, and some days where you feel the depression creeping in. All of this is normal in the grieving process.

If you’re ready to talk about your relationship with your parents and work toward either mending it or accepting the loss, the staff at Mindsight can help!

Shelby Case is a new therapist at Mindsight Louisville! Shelby's favorite things include spending time with her animals and her spouse, watching television (currently they are watching Big Brother), and taking road trips. When she isn't providing therapy to clients, she can be found playing video games (her favorite is The Sims 4) or spending too much money at a thrift store. Shelby's favorite color is green and her guilty pleasure is reality TV shows.

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