Ask Dr. Zoe – How Do I Get Over the Loss of a Parent I Never Knew?

Ask Dr. Zoe - How Do I Get Over the Loss of a Parent I Never Knew?

‘Danielle’ asked:

This is less a question and more so information-seeking. My biological dad passed away in a tragic drowning accident 28ish years ago when my mom was 6 months pregnant with me. I recently started therapy for unrelated reasons, but discovered in the process that my dad’s passing is a huge source of emotion for me. The problem is, I can’t find other people like me who lost a parent they never even knew. My therapist hasn’t met anyone like me either, so we’re trying to figure out what would even be helpful for me, because I don’t know what I’m feeling or why.

Have you interacted with adult children of fathers who died when they were in utero? Do you have any advice for where to find a community of similar individuals?

Dr. Zoe answered:

I once had a client whose biological father died in a tragic motorcycle accident when she was still in utero. It’s interesting how much her pain at never having known her father was a source of much of our work together.

What Can You Learn from Your Loss?Loss and grief are so interesting. The thing I have learned about loss is that we aren’t grieving what was—we are grieving what will never be.

So, it makes complete sense that you have grief regarding a man you have never met. You have been grieving your whole life because he has never been. Every future moment you have ever imagined is one without a biological father.

Additionally, I imagine that must have been a traumatic time in your mother’s life. Science now understands that trauma can be passed down physiologically in utero. That is something your body may have had to contend with as you were developing.

Likely, because you never knew him, you and others may not have acknowledged this grief and so your current work is to acknowledge it and continue to process it with your therapist.

I don’t know of any communities of those whose parents died when they were in utero, but I would encourage you to start one. Social media and Google can be wonderful vehicles for niche groups of people to find each other.

Sometimes, just calling loss and grief what it is can be enough to begin to facilitate healing. I’m glad you have gotten into therapy and are uncovering this work. Keep going.

You’ve got this!

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