This page is part of the Surviving Parents with a Mental Illness website


Now as an adult, you may have some questions about your grief and sense of loss such as:  

  • Why is it different for each person even within the same family? 
  • Why is the grief different at different points, phases or moments in a person’s life?
  • What might determine the size, shape, texture of my grief?
Here are some things that could influence grief responses and/or reactions:
  • perception of loss rather than loss itself
  • chronological age
  • birth order within the family 
  • unresolved intergenerational issues
  • current developmental stage in life
  • temperament
  • circumstances under which perception of loss occurred
  • relational factors
  • gender
  • emotional, intellectual, and awareness levels of both griever and others surrounding the griever
  • inner/outer coping styles prior to the loss
  • ethnicity and language spoken at home
  • the quality of the loss and degree of loyalty invested in the ill parent
  • the degree, quality, and attachment style to the mentally ill parent during infancy, through to adolescence, and the extent to which this has been qualitatively altered over an individual's life span
  • a capacity to seek, locate and maintain symbolic and actual supports
  • how established your identity was at the time of loss 
  • the status of your health prior and post awareness of loss
  • quality and extent of social support network of your family before your birth, after you were born, while you were developing, and now
  • new grief/loss evoking/provoking old grief
  • how much therapeutic work you have done on yourself either formally or informally
  • cultural, religious, social, historical influences (locally, nationally, globally)
  • current socio-political climate (locally, nationally and internationally)
  • how supportive/tolerant your community is of diversity or difference
  • economic and financial influences
  • family of origin influences / attitudes towards losses (spoken/unspoken)
  • other simultaneous, parallel or concurrent events occurring in your life e.g. specific life transitions
  • consequential or secondary losses i.e. loss clusters or ripple effect
  • your unique individual personality
  • capacity to express yourself via different modalities
  • creative outlets
  • paid and unpaid work life
  • absence or presence of family members who are in current contact
  • breadth and depth of reliable/trusted social connections
  • ULTIMATELY YOU DECIDE… What may have determined your loss and grief experience(s) as a child of parent(s) with mental illness.

Additional things that could influence grief responses and/or reactions:

  • type of mental illness your parent had and its level of chronicity
  • your personal threshold of internal pain
  • your physical health and fitness status
  • window of tolerance for reality or truth of what happened
  • your capacity to take responsibility where realistically warranted
  • whether other traumas occurred concurrently to losses
  • whether you were parentified and to what degree
  • whether you were in any position to win personal boundaries between you and your mentally ill parent during your early years
  • level of guilt and responsibility imposed during early developmental years
  • depth and breadth of uninvited shame imposed on your identity
  • degree of felt self-agency for change in family-of-origin
  • level of hope for a different future

A partial Japanese (日本語) translation of grief determinants is available for download here.

Article entitled:11 reasons why grieving in "stages" makes no sense” can be found here:

See other pages below - just click on topic:

Last Modified: 11th Feb, 2017.