"My parents had me as an afterthought," says Sandra Jones (not her real name), 39, "so they were older than most. My father died five years ago, and though I was extremely unhappy, I had the comfort of comforting my mother. And she comforted me as best she could, because she'd always been very loving. But what I found extraordinary was that, after Dad died, she seemed to gain enormous strength, as if he had been repressing her. Indeed, she had always been very sweet, but very weak and submissive, and dominated by Dad. So, because of this new characteristic in her, I didn't miss him so much, and I was also able to enjoy the blossoming of a new mother, a mother that perhaps I had always longed for. We got on even better than we used to, after Dad's death - and this is what made her sudden death, from a heart attack, so much worse. I think I had almost put my feelings of grief about my father dying on hold until my mother died, too, so when she died it was like a double grief.

"I have a sister, but funnily enough we have been no help to each other. We can't even discuss my parents because we each experienced them in such a different way. The jealousy we felt seemed to spill over into how we felt about the will, and we actually stopped speaking to each other for six months. A counsellor I saw said we were using the anger we felt abut Mum's death against each other. It sounds right in theory, but I still can't forgive my sister for taking some of the things she took from Mum's house.

"I saw her a month ago, and we cried together a bit for the first time, but it is terrible what the death of parents does to our other relationships. I felt my husband didn't understand what I was going through at all and, to be honest, there was one moment when I wished he would die, too. I seem to be getting over these feelings gradually, but I feel very bitter with God that he took Mum away just as our relationship was becoming so good. My last child left home shortly after Mum died, and I feel this icy wind of loneliness blowing from the front and the back, as it were. I feel it is very cold out in the front, and my parents did give me the shelter I needed. I hate and fear the feeling of having to grow up at last."