It has been known for some time that grief can go beyond its emotional toll and cause physical health problems.

But what about the very specific grief caused by losing a parent in childhood?

Dr Sohom Das is a forensic psychiatrist from London, who also shares mental health and other related content on YouTube.

In a recent video on his channel A Psych for Sore Minds, he tackled the topic of what can happen to children who lose a parent to death. 

He said in his video that this type of grief can lead to a range of negative emotions, including anxiety and depression.

Around five per cent of children lose a parent before reaching adulthood, according to psychiatrist Dr Sohom Das (stock image)

Around five per cent of children lose a parent before reaching adulthood, according to psychiatrist Dr Sohom Das (stock image)

The video is titled The Effect of Losing A Parent Before Parenthood, and also includes stats on how many children lose parents.

LOSING A PARENT 

Parents are important figures in life. Whether you were close, or you had a more difficult relationship, coping with your mum or dad’s death can be really hard.

As people get older, it’s common to think that you shouldn’t be as upset as you are when your parent dies. This can be because it’s considered more “normal” for this to happen as you progress through life, but this doesn’t mean how you’re feeling is wrong.

It is never childish to feel affected by the death of a parent, and it’s okay to feel upset. Parents are parents, and you will always be their child.

Source: Sue Ryder charity 

‘About five per cent of young people lose a parent before reaching adulthood which is actually surprisingly high, higher than I expected it to be,’ he said in the video.

The psychiatrist continued: ‘Early parental loss is associated with negative outcomes.

‘[These can include] anxiety, depression, prolonged grief reaction, and negative effects on self esteem and sense of self.’

The negative outcomes can continue into adulthood, he explained.

Dr Das said: ‘There’s also an increased risk of suicide in the future and substance misuse.’

He explained that it can also affect relationships in the future.

According to Dr Das speaking in the video: ‘It can even affect how a child approaches adult relationships in terms of bonding and emotions.’

His video ties in with a study released in March 2023, where researchers, at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked at grief.

According to Dr Dang Wei, an epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute who was involved in the study: ‘We found that individuals who lost a close family member (e.g. a child, partner, parent, sibling) had higher risks of atrial fibrillation, heart disease, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke and heart failure than those who hadn’t lost a close family member.’

Equally, he said that parents who lose a child are at risk of many of the same negative health outcomes. 

The scientists looked at data from the parents of more than 800,000 children born between 1973 and 2016, concluded that bereaved parents ‘may benefit from increased support from family members and health professionals’. 

Dr Dang Wei said his simple conclusion is: ‘[A] broken heart breaks the heart.’

Other conditions he listed included an increased risk of conditions from heart disease and cancer to memory problems, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

Dr Sohom Das can be found on TwitterInstagram, and TikTok, as well as YouTube.