Half Orphan: Losing a Parent to COVID

Half Orphan: Losing a Parent to COVID

Over 42.000 kids in the United States have lost a parent to COVID-19, according to a study made by JAMA Pediatrics.

Over 42.000 kids in the United States have lost a parent to COVID-19, according to a study made by JAMA Pediatrics.

Children in the US under age 17 have lost at least one of their parents due to the pandemic.

To understand the meaning behind the early loss of a parent and its impact on attachment, Psychotherapist Alan Robarge explains the better way to cope with a loved one's death.

Dr. Robarge lost one of his parents when he was 14 years old, so he experienced everything that comes with losing an important member of the family. His father died suddenly during an accident. To adapt to the situation, he became more independent, self-sufficient, and self-referencing of his experience.

He reveals "a reaction to my father's passing was a reinforcement of my own self-sufficiency."

As a consequence of the loss, kids experience a change in their family roles and dynamics. Everyone involved is grieving, so the whole family has torn apart.


During the process, the grief and the major life upheaval can be very challenging. Teenage years are especially a vital age to have friends and experiment with dating and relationships. For Dr. Robarge, all of that was put on hold because his grief for losing a loved one was not consciously in the forefront of his mind.

Some kids who experience this seem to shut down because they cannot manage and don't understand what does it mean to lose a parent at their age. In Dr. Robarge's case, it took many years for him to understand how did losing his hero impacted him.

This reality can be very harmful. The Psychotherapist explains, "the kid has a very hard time accepting reality because it's so painful and overwhelming for the child's brain."

If the parent and the children weren't emotionally connected or the last one felt like that figure was not emotionally available, the kid will miss him or her anyway. The feeling of the absence of security from the caretaker or protector that passed away will be stronger.

JAMA Pediatrics' study conclusion is "our model suggests that each COVID-19 death leaves 0.078 children aged 0 to 17 parentally bereaved. This represents a 17.5% to 20.2% increase in parental bereavement absent COVID-19."

Many kids that have gone through this want to know how to heal, change, and be more secure. This is why Dr. Robarge created his Four Attachment Distress Responses Course, which explains how human beings try to protect themselves from getting hurt again while attempting to get their attachment needs to be met. Regarding this, he assures, "while we cannot change the past, we can change how we respond in the moment and in the future."

Getting good advice is crucial through all of this process. As a traumatic response, kids can start acting out of autopilot. This response comes from past conditioning of negative experiences. When attachment injuries go unaddressed, kids who lost a parent can become insecure in their relationships.

The expert warns, "the relationship we had with the parent at the time of his or her death can influence us developmentally. It influences how we create out adult relationships."

For this reason, it is essential to approach these topics with kids naturally and find the correct methods and professionals that will help them get through the death of a parent. A lot of empathy, patience, and love will be fundamental during the following years to help the kids move on and heal.

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