The Challenges of life as a parentless parent

I remember the day like it was yesterday.  I was sitting in the kitchen eating my breakfast before heading off to work.  I was 7 months pregnant and already looking forward to starting my maternity leave.  The house phone rang and my dad, sounding rather panicked, explained that my mother had fallen on her walk to work and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance.  I lived in the town and so the local hospital was only a short drive.  I remember waiting in the car park for the ambulance to arrive and being comforted by the fact that it didn’t have its sirens or flashing lights on.  Little did I know that this was due to the fact that my mother had already died of a heart attack in transit. She was 58 and had no previous medical conditions.

My wonderful mother in law had sadly passed away after a short battle with cancer the year before and so my mother had decided to take early retirement so that she could spend as much time as possible with me and the baby.  She adored children and was so excited about the imminent arrival of my little bundle of joy.  Our eldest daughter was 8 at the time and my mother loved shopping for clothes and treating her as all grandparents do.

Two months later I gave birth to my son. It wasn’t an easy birth and it resulted in my having a c section under general anesthetic.  The months that followed saw me fall into a deep depression and whilst well-meaning friends and family would visit bringing gifts and cards to celebrate the birth, I struggled with feelings of loss, anger and guilt for being so sad at what should have been such a wonderful happy time.

However, life went on and whilst I didn’t have my mother and mother in law my Dad did his absolute best to support me although he was in the depths of his own grief. We did absolutely everything together and he was a truly amazing grandfather to my 3 children.

Unfortunately, in the years that followed we would go on to lose my father in law and then sadly my father. In a matter of years we had lost all our parents.

By now I was in my 30’s and was kept busy working as a lawyer, running a business and rushing around after the children.  It soon became obvious however that this routine was unsustainable and I would have to give up the career I loved so much in order to get a less demanding job closer to home.  Whilst this eased the pressure somewhat, the fact that I had cut my hours and salary meant my husband had to work longer hours.  The demands of parenthood only increased with time and as any parent knows too well, children have a very active social life! When they say ‘it takes a village’, it really does.

Watching your children grieve is something that I would not wish on anybody.  My children adored my Dad and dealing with their grief whilst grieving myself was and still is the hardest thing I have dealt with.  It breaks my heart when I see them cry because they miss him or because their friends are having a ‘sleepover’ with their Mamgu and Tadcu. My youngest daughter has also developed a terrible fear of death and at (now) 10 years of age is heartbreaking to see.

Being a parentless parent brings with it a huge emotional deficit however it also means that you lack the practical support afforded to many other parents.  School runs, babysitters, emotional support when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.  There are days when I wish that my parents were around so that I can ask them for advice or help.  Seeing friends going on ‘date nights’ or on holidays together used to really upset me but now I feel fortunate that I am around and am able to spend so much time with my children.  I appreciate that I am lucky.

I have a loving husband and 3 healthy and wonderful children and best friends that I thank my lucky stars for.  I do however sometimes feel robbed.  I adored my parents and it sounds cliche but they really were my best friends and I miss them terribly.

I sometimes wonder whether I would have suffered the mental health issues that I have had it not been for the loss of my parents however I guess I’ll never know. What I do know is this.. grief is not always strong, courageous or graceful.  It is ugly, messy, jealous and destructive and can make you feel like you’re a bad person.  You’re not a bad person, you’re simply a person dealing with an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Being a parentless parent means that I no longer take things for granted and I love with all my heart.  If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents, do call them or call in with them and tell them how much you love and appreciate them.  And for those of you who aren’t so luck or for whatever reason have a strained relationship with your parents, cwtch mawr I chi gyd.

As a mother I am forever in awe of my fellow sisterhood and honestly think we should cut ourselves and each other some slack, build each other up and have each other’s backs.  We are doing an amazing job and we really should recognise that. Be kind, be grateful, be awesome!

By Nicola Rees.

Mam Cymru would like to say a massive thank you to Nicola for contacting us to ask if she could share her story on Mam Cymru, in order to help and support other parentless parents #MamPower. If you have a story to share or if you would like to contact us about your ideas and thoughts please email us on

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