17 Tragic Deaths of Parents and Parental Figures

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Sometimes it seems we spend our lives searching for someone to see us and love us for all our faults and foibles. Parents, be they birth parent or adoptive, will love us this way. They will see in us a beauty we will not understand until we ourselves are parents. No matter what we do, what we are or what we are not, they will always love us.

Until they are gone, and then we begin to question if anything will ever be right again. And if we are TV Fanatics, we turn to television and other forms of fiction for the answers.

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Loss is often necessary for the plot of a show, and by knowing that, we can maybe know that the losses we suffer have a purpose as well, even if we may never understand it. 

As devastating as it is watching a character we love experience loss, there is also a level of catharsis. We have found a kindred spirit. They know our pain and we know theirs. Isn't that the whole point?

This list is of the great losses children experience when great parents are taken from them. Whether the main character was the parent who died, or the child who lost them, the tragedy remains.

Let us know what you think, or if we missed some of your favorites.


1. Buffy Loses Joyce Summers -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy Loses Joyce Summers -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In a show riddled with death, the most tragic and unexpected was the loss of Joyce Summers. As the mom of the protagonist, and pseudo-mom of the rest of the Scoobies, Joyce provided a sense of family and support until she suffered a brain aneurysm after seemingly being cured of brain cancer. After the initial airing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 Episode 16, many viewers who had suffered losses let the team behind Buffy know that the episode helped them cope and come to terms, in some cases years after the fact.

2. The Hennessy's Lose Paul -- 8 Simple Rules

The Hennessy's Lose Paul -- 8 Simple Rules
On two-parter 8 Simple Rules Season 2 Episode 4 and 8 Simple Rules Season 2 Episode 5, this early 2000s sitcom took a turn for the tragic. After actor John Ritter unexpectedly died, the show was forced to kill his character, Paul Hennessy. Paul, a writer and stay-at-home dad to two teenage girls and a preteen boy, was both the protagonist of the show, as well as the heart. Losing him hit all the characters hard, bringing them together in new ways and bringing out new sides of them. When Kate finds Paul's last column and reads it to his kids as they all cuddle on the bed, they all find comfort in his words. They know that their father knew he was loved.

3. Oliver and Laurel Lose Quentin Lance -- Arrow

Oliver and Laurel Lose Quentin Lance -- Arrow
With Sara off traveling through time and space and Earth-1 Laurel long dead, did Quentin have any kids to be wrecked by his death? You bet your Black Siren he did. Oliver dated and wronged both Lance's daughters, but on Arrow Season 6 Episode 23, Oliver acknowledges Quentin's fatherly role in his life. Lance watched Oliver grow up and grow into the man he is, and the love and sense of family is clear in that last scene they share. And let's not forget Earth 2 Laurel, who has found the father she never had in the man who loved her like his own. Quentin believed in her when nobody else did. She is perhaps the one who feels the loss most of all.

4. Dawson Loses Mitch Leery -- Dawson's Creek

Dawson Loses Mitch Leery -- Dawson's Creek
The most memorable thing about Dawson Leery is the dramatic way he feels everything. (A certain meme won't let us forget it). Yet Dawson was brought to a different level of feeling, as well as numbness when he lost his father. Neither son nor father was perfect, and both tried their best. However even all these years later, it is unlikely Dawson will ever forget that his father died after they had a big fight about Dawson's choices and priorities. One of the greatest tragedies about tragedies is the words left unsaid and the words you wish you didn't say. Dawson's choices and relationships were altered by the loss of his father and the guilt he will always carry with him.

5. Barry Loses Henry Allen -- The Flash

Barry Loses Henry Allen -- The Flash
Apparently, someone decided that seeing your mother murdered at age eleven, and having your father go to jail for it when you knew he was innocent was not enough loss for Barry Allen to go through. Barry and his father were reunited on The Flash Season 2 Episode 1, but they had barely had a year to reconnect before Barry is once again forced to witness his parent's murder on The Flash Season 2 Episode 22. While the loss of his parents in early childhood propelled Barry on his hero's journey to become The Flash, this loss had him backsliding, proving there is no one way to respond to grief.

6. Clark Loses Jonathan -- Smallville

Clark Loses Jonathan -- Smallville
I know Martha lost him too, and I'm not taking away from that as Martha and Jonathan are #MarriageGoals, but this list is about parents and children. The ultimate orphan found a family that made him feel loved and taught him to be the ultimate hero. So to lose the hero he looked up to, to lose his Superman, was devastating. It was made worse by Clark being partially responsible, but if he couldn't feel guilty about everything that goes wrong in the world he wouldn't be Clark Kent. Still, this loss, which occurred mid-series, defined so many of Clark's choices as he became Superman. There would be no Superman without Jonathan and Martha.

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