I think a lot of us had less than ideal relationships with our parents. I think it is totally normal to be sad that your parents died because now you will never have them as the kind of parents you need. That relationship has ended. They weren’t there for you, and now they never will be.
I also think it is totally normal to be relieved that your parents have died if the household was abusive. I know that there is a sense of guilt for feeling this. I think that is because society assumes you should be sad, when really you can’t be sad. I think to be expected to feel sad when you are free of an unhealthy relationship is insane.
I think it is healthy to feel however you feel you need to feel, without regard to what people think you should feel. It think it is very healthy to get these feelings out – don’t bottle them in, and don’t deny them. If you stuff them down they will come out in ugly ways later. Trust me on this.
There are a few ways I’ve learned to deal with these feelings. Pick a couple. Try them out. If it doesn’t work, try something else. This is by no means an all-encompassing list.
Talk to a therapist or a counselor or a faith leader or a compassionate friend. Go for a walk or a run. Punch a pillow. Cry, sing, wail. Jump up and down. Dance. Journal – write it out. It doesn’t matter if you are good writer or not – you don’t even have to use sentences. Try creating with non-word activities to get it out. Sometimes words fail us. Draw, paint, garden, make jewelry – anything where you can express your feelings.
Most importantly, have patience with yourself. This work of grief, especially grief concerning a broken relationship, is hard, and it takes a long time. Know that what you are going through is normal. You aren’t alone. It is hard work, and it is important work.
What the books don’t tell you is that this isn’t the end. Just because your biological parent wasn’t up to snuff doesn’t mean you can’t find new role models. You can have second, third, and fourth parents. You get to pick your parents when you think of it this way. You can have one person teach you how to cook. Another can teach you how to sew. Another can teach you everything you want to know about fly fishing. You can take a class, or read a book, or watch a video to learn as well. You aren’t stuck with just one set of parents. There are hundreds of people who are able and happy to teach you whatever skills you need to know that your parents weren’t able to show you. It is never too late to start again.