Death of an Adult Child


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan
CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

​​​The death of an adult child is an overwhelming experience to parents. Parents are never fully prepared to have their child die before them. The grief is intense and complex.

When an adult child dies, the parent’s grief is often disenfranchised or discounted. Others may assume that if the child was an adult, the grief is less. If the death was sudden or from an illness, parents are told they should be grateful that the child lived as long as he or she did.

Adult children often become friends with their parents and so when an adult child dies, the parent also has lost a friend.

When parents are caring for their adult children who have a physical or mental illness, caregiving may become the central focus of their lives. When the child dies, the parents also mourn the loss of this role.

What you can do:
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Share your feelings – with family, friends, your faith community.
  • Journal
  • Do something to honor the memory of your adult child – this can be private and personal or more public.
  • Join a support group.
  • Seek professional help.
Please remember that we are here with comfort, hope and healing.


About Diane Snyder Cowan​
Diane Snyder Cowan is the director of Western Reserve Grief Services.

She oversees the hospice and bereavement programs and expressive therapy. Diane is a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator and a Board Certified Music Therapist.

She currently serves as the Section Leader for the Bereavement Professional Section of the National Council of Hospice and Palliative Professionals and previously served on the Board of Directors of the Certification Board for Music Therapy.

Diane has presented on music therapy and grief and loss throughout the country and has written for many publications on music therapy and on grief and loss.

She strives to provide support and education to grieving individuals and those who work with them.