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Madeleine Bailey

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When your parents die (Healthy magazine)

About this project

A psychology piece on the emotional impact of losing your parents as an adult. Even though this is a rite of passage affecting most of us, it can have wildly varying and life-changing effects. It appeared in Healthy magazine, owned by health food chain Holland & Barrett and published by customer publishing agency River. I regularly wrote health, psychology and lifestyle features for this magazine between 2007 and 2015.


When your parents die

No matter how old you are, it’s always a shock. Yet losing the support system that’s been there all your life can have profound and even positive results

 With the average UK lifespan now at 80 and more than 440,000 over-90s currently living in England and Wales, many of us are now middle-aged or older by the time we lose our parents.

I’m 48 and lucky that both my parents, aged 83 and 92, are still alive and relatively well. But it’s recently dawned on me that at some point in the not-too-distant future they will no longer be here. The death of parents may be part of the natural order, but the reality is hard to imagine. They have always been a constant in my life, but one day they won’t be at the end of a phone line. This is a foundation-shaking thought. So does being middle-age or older make the death of our parents easier to deal with – or is it harder as we’ve been used to having them around for so much longer?