How to Begin Your Healing Journey After the Loss of a Parent

Empty bench in a park, symbolizing loss and grief.Here’s a riddle for you: I have a starting point with no end in sight. I sneak up on you without warning and make you lose all your might. You cannot ignore me, no matter how busy you get. I remind you of what you’ve lost, so you never forget.

Answer: Grief.

When my mother passed away in 2019, I acknowledged she was no longer in pain and had gone to be with her Lord & Savior, but I did not give myself space to grieve. Instead, I distracted myself from the pain by going back to work to return to normalcy. Despite my best efforts, when I pulled into the parking lot of my workplace a week after her burial, I couldn’t stop crying.

I had difficulty transitioning back into being social because people who knew I lost my mom graciously gave me their condolences. My head knew these were gestures of compassion, however, each time I heard, “I’m sorry for your loss,” my heart would remember that my mom was no longer here.

RELATED: How I’m Coping With the Loss of My Dad

Grief from the loss of a parent is a collective human emotion most of us will come to know in our lives. On your good days, you are at peace, and on your worst days, your emotions can take you under for the mere thought that your loved one is no longer here. 

Grief is an emotion I will live with for the rest of my life, a constant reminder that love never dies. In 2020, the unprecedented pandemic forced the world to pause, and it gave me the time to sit in my feelings and address my pain.

A moment of contemplation came over me when I was packing up my mother’s belongings. I placed each one of her items into one of three piles: keep, trash, and donate. I thought to myself, after everything I have gone through, is this what I wanted my life to boil down to? Do I want to be remembered for leaving things to be donated, trashed, or shared amongst family? Or do I want to live with purpose and intention after everything I have survived and walked away from?

I knew I wanted to live a more fulfilled life, but I didn’t know what that looked like for me. I had to decide what life would look like on the other side of healing from the loss of my mother. 

My journey began with enlisting the help of a therapist to help me unpack all the negative emotions of anger, guilt, fear, and anxiety I had held on to for far too long. 

I also kept a journal and asked God to help me use this time of stillness during the pandemic to heal my brokenness and put the pieces of my heart back together. The bottom of my journal page had a Bible verse that spoke about transformation and renewal of the spirit, which I had so desperately sought since my mother’s death. A coincidence, I think not!

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

(Psalms 51:10, NIV)

For the first time, I gave myself permission to actively participate in my healing, which led to me rediscovering my authentic self. I learned that if you can visualize what the other side of healing looks like for you, then you can create a plan of action to get there. 

Initially, this step was hard for me because I had many suppressed emotions. We truly can’t heal what we are not willing to reveal. Therapy allowed me to accept myself at this moment and uncover my pain and heal from it so I can live my life to the fullest. 

RELATED: Back to Work After Loss: Navigating Grief in the Office

My healing journey awakened my life’s purpose to help others who have come out of traumatic situations such as a loss of a loved one, domestic violence, divorce, childhood trauma, and other mental health crises. 

In answering the call in my life, I became a certified and trauma-informed Self-Discovery Coach. My role as a coach is to help trauma survivors discover their true selves, visualize the life they want after surviving a traumatic experience, and create actionable steps to achieve their goals. 

The first step in any transformation journey is self-awareness. In taking your first step toward healing, ask yourself, “What does the other side of grief look like for you?” Do you want a healed heart that overflows with joy despite the pain you’ve faced? Do you seek a different perspective concerning how to navigate this new normal? The beauty is that you get to decide.

My self-discovery journey drew my attention to the emotions I was experiencing and the messages they were sending me. After my mother’s death, I was physically and mentally exhausted. As someone who had depression in the past, I knew I couldn’t remain in this state of being for too long or my mental health would decline. 

I leaned on the love and support of my husband, family, and friends to see me through this difficult time. I engaged in activities that brought me joy so I can focus on everything I have gained instead of solely focusing on my loss. By taking the time to give myself space to acknowledge my feelings of grief, I could move forward again. 

Here are a few reflective questions to help to coach yourself into embracing your heartbreak instead of resisting it.

  1. How is the pain of your loss affecting you today?
  2. How is your grief affecting your mental health, relationships, work, and friendships?
  3. What does it look like to move forward as you continue the grieving process?
  4. What can you do today to show yourself love and compassion as you grieve?
  5. Who are the people in your support system? How can these individuals help you today?

Grief is not an emotion we can gloss over. We have to go through it by experiencing all the feelings that come with it to get to the other side. Life is different now, but you can move forward. The first step is to address the pain you’re experiencing and heal.

If your grief becomes too overwhelming for you to manage, don’t be afraid to seek professional help from a grief counselor or clergy member. You can also connect with a Crisis Counselor for free 24/7 at or Text HOME to 741741.

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Karla J. Noland is a wife, working mom, award-winning author & speaker, and certified Personal Development & Executive coach who loves sharing what she has learned. Her latest book and bereavement companion journal, titled "The Day My Heart Turned Blue," is the 2022 Eric Hoffer Spiritual book award winner, which chronicles Karla’s healing journey after the death of her mother.