R. BENYAMIN CIRLIN, CSW: The fact is, parents are supposed to predecease children. Because it's a natural loss -- it follows the natural timeline -- many people sort of think that adults should just spend a few days grieving their parents and then get on with things, but there are lots and lots of adults who have a hard time moving on.
LISA CLARK: What are some of the typical feelings that this event awakes in person that they didn't realize was a part of their emotional structure?
R. BENYAMIN CIRLIN, CSW: Parents play a lot of roles for children, even when you're an adult. One of the roles that parents play is that they're sort of a buffer between ourselves and mortality. When a parent dies, often the adult child feels like they're on the front lines of mortality right now.
LISA CLARK: My mom has expressed that in almost exactly the same words. She lost her mother last year, and she said, "I feel like there's no one now between me and death." It's a very common feeling.
R. BENYAMIN CIRLIN, CSW: Another important phenomenon is that our parents are witnesses to our history. Many of us, when we grow up to be adults, don't have people who knew us when we were kids. When a parent dies, that witness to our childhood is gone, and it's now only something within us.
LISA CLARK: And the some people also, Patty, have to assume the role, say, of a caretaker, perhaps, of a surviving parent who is ill or perhaps even a younger sibling.