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'You will feel relieved.' 4 things they don't tell you when an estranged parent dies.

I think I always expected that one day I would receive that call – the call to let me know he had died. It was always there, hovering in the back of my mind. 

Because of the way he lived his life and the choices he made, it was inevitable. I naively assumed I would feel instant relief and that would be the end of it. I didn’t expect the complete opposite to happen. 

I felt lost, unsure of how to react and two years on, I still get that feeling. There’s no handbook on what to do when your estranged parent dies, because it’s not as simple as that.

So, to those of you that have an estranged parent, to those of you that know the phone call will come, and those of you that have already had the phone call, this is for you. It’s okay to feel whatever feelings you need to feel to ride this rollercoaster. This is your metaphorical handbook.

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1. You will feel relieved.

The day you get that phone call, you will feel immense relief. 

Relived because the anticipation of the dreaded call is no longer hanging over you. Relieved because you know now there is no chance of accidentally bumping into them. No more chances of walking past someone and your heart stopping because you thought it was them. 

I always wondered what I would do and how I would act if our paths crossed again, but now the fear of that happening is no longer there. I feel relieved that my children will never have to be around that toxicity. Relieved that this chapter of my life is over. 


The uneasy feeling that they were there in the background is now gone. You can breathe again.

2. You will feel guilt.

Could I have done more to help them? Should I have stayed in touch? Would it have been different if I hadn’t cut them off? The questions are never ending. 

You will always be searching for the answers to these questions, but the thing is, you will never get the answers because who’s to know if it would have been different if you had kept that connection? 

I think that’s where the guilt comes from, because you will never truly know if it could have been different. But feeling guilty is a huge burden to carry when you’re already carrying so much with this. 

You have to remember to tell yourself that you walked away for a reason. You walked away from the destruction to save yourself. You walked away for you.

3. You will grieve.

This one hits the hardest. Every so often you will stop and remember the times when there was love there, before you chose to walk away. 

The fact remains that they were still your parent before they made the choices they made. There were good times and I have happy memories of spending my weekends with him. I grieve the loss of the relationship when I was a kid because I can look at the ‘good times’ through rose-tinted glasses. 

I grieve the loss of the family that left me behind when we chose to go 'no contact'. I grieve the loss of my innocence, having to grow up faster than my peers for survival. I grieve the fact that my kids will never have a relationship with their grandfather. 

But most of all, I grieve the loss of my dad. It’s ok to feel this grief and let yourself mourn your parent, or mourn the idea of what could have been.


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4. You will always wonder.

I have wondered a lot since I decided to cut him out of my life. I've wondered what could have been. 

Of course the wondering becomes less as more time passes, and it’s easy to push it to the back of your mind when you’ve settled into your new normal. But it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you cut them out. 

Once you get the news that they have died, the wonder comes right back up to surface. Wondering what the future holds now you don’t have that parent. I wonder if my path would have been different had he still been in my life. 

Would he have treated my kids the same way he treated me, or would they have changed him and sent him on a better path? This I will never know but the constant wondering takes me right back to the feeling of relief – relief that it is all over. 

The reality is that losing an estranged parent is hard. Hard to come to terms with and sometimes hard to truly accept that they no longer have a hold on you. 

Let the feelings in, because otherwise you’ll feel lost and confused on how to navigate this. Know that whatever you feel is ok and know that you are not alone and it’s ok to explore these feelings. You will be okay. 

Jules is a stay at home mum to four children and has been writing for two years. Her passion is writing and shares about her past experiences and the reality of being a parent. She also shares her thoughts on her blog and you can find her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Getty.

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