Grief: the unrecognized parental response to mental illness in a child

Soc Work. 1994 Mar;39(2):160-6.


The normal grief response of parents to the death of a child of any age is well documented in the literature. This response has some unique qualities because of the special nature of the parent-child relationship. Parents whose son or daughter develops a serious mental illness experience this same grief, but often it is not recognized or validated by society and either is not addressed by mental health professionals or is misperceived as evidence of pathology. As a result, healthy expression of parental grief over a child's mental illness is seriously inhibited, and problems, both for parents and the patient, are exacerbated. This article describes some common elements of parental bereavement, losses experienced with mental illness, the consequences of ignoring grief, and appropriate interventions for mental health professionals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bereavement
  • Child
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Care Team
  • Social Work, Psychiatric