In the face of the earth-shattering event that is the loss of a parent, often the most important elements in rebuilding a life from the rubble are stability and security. You’ll probably find yourself battling a whirlwind of emotions—from anger, to betrayal, to abandonment, to grief—and that struggle can bubble over in unexpected ways. As teenagers, we already have to deal with a new set of psychological puzzles to decipher as we try to keep up with a changing sense of identity. In many households that tangled rage and frustration is directed at our parents—in a single-parent household facing a death, that strain doubles. The stresses of your new life as a half-orphan, combined with the stresses of your parent’s life as a single mom or dad, can eat away at your relationship.
Your relationship with your remaining parent can start to crumble in the face of death in a number of ways, and for a number of reasons. The simplest explanation is that you yourself are changing. The loss of a mother or father can make you hard, cynical, guarded. You might turn away from affection because you want to be alone to process everything that’s happening in your life. You might worry that your remaining parent will try to keep you young so they won’t be alone, and want to keep to yourself to avoid facing that truth. You might be angry at whatever God you believe in, or simply angry at the world, for tearing your family apart, and take that anger out on the people around you. You might even be angry at the parent you have left because deep down you just need someone to blame and they’re the only one there.
This is not a healthy way to cope with your sadness. While anger is a natural element of the grieving process, you have to be very careful that you don’t let the intense emotions you feel become toxic to your relationship with the family and friends that are still with you. At the end of the day, pushing your remaining parent away will only do more damage to the very security and stability you need so badly in your life right now. Keep them close. And while you might forget this sometimes, you may have lost your mom or dad, but they’ve lost a spouse—the person they’d hoped to have by their side their entire life; and their responsibilities—responsibilities to keep you happy and healthy—have doubled. Not only does their child have to deal with grief, something they’d always hoped to shield you from, but they have to work through this without the help of their husband or wife. They need you as much as you need them. So keep your living mom or dad close to you, and work through your grief together rather than letting it pull you apart.