Leo: It never feels genuine.
Frank: But I'm sorry about your mom.
Alice has just met Bob, and although the two of them come from very different backgrounds, they have one very important character trait in common: Both of them have missing parents. It doesn't matter what the circumstances (although the circumstances might be very similar if only for plot convenience); one might have a Missing Mom and the other a Disappeared Dad, or maybe both of them have parents who were killed due to war violence, or maybe one or both of them never even knew their parents. Whatever the circumstances, this link between them is key to their relationship together.
Often, the "bonding" part of this trope is done in a scene designed to stir up some emotion, with the two characters alone together, maybe sitting on a hillside or something, and something in the conversation leads them to talk about their parents.
Variations of this can cover any missing relative, or anyone who is sufficiently close enough to a character that they consider each other family. A relatively common twist on this trope is a revelation that the two characters are missing the same exact person. (e.g., Luke and Leia learning that they are brother and sister.)
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi and Asuna smooth out some initial conflict by bonding over their mutual parentlessness.
- In the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers supplementary manga, Teana starts showing much more understanding and care (in her own way) for Subaru after learning about the death of Subaru's mother in the line of duty, since she herself lost her surrogate-parent brother in a similar fashion, in addition to her parents, who died earlier.
- A one-sided version in One Piece. In Usopp's introductory arc, Usopp, whose father had left his family to become a pirate and whose mother died of illness sometime afterward, befriends Kaya to help her get over the recent death of both of her parents, having first-hand experience of what she was going through. However, the usage of this trope isn't brought up until the arc is over and Usopp has left the island both of them were living on, and not by Usopp himself, but by Kaya's butler, who had learned Usopp's back story from the other villagers and figured it out.
- In Dragonball Z, this is how Gohan and Videl get to know each other personally, as opposed to just being crime-fighting martial artists.
- In the Bokurano manga, Kanji and Ushiro got to know each other after encountering each other while visiting their mothers' graves. Ushiro's biological mother, however, wasn't actually dead at the time.
- The Legend of Snow White: Besides their shared love of nature and fun, Snow White and Prince Richard also bond over the fact that they both lost their mothers as children.
- Blood-C: The Last Dark: Saya and Mana became close due to their lost dads. Though in Saya's case, her "father" is not related to her by blood but by the same species.
- It's revealed in Kagetora that the titular character and Kosuke both lost their mothers and feel a bond between each other because of it.
- While all the main characters of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service have lost their parents at a young age, Yata and Makino gets some Ship Tease moments after revealing that both their families died from suicide.
- In The Demon Girl Next Door, the revelation that Magical Girl Momo Chiyoda's adoptive big sister who raised her also saved the titular demon girl Yuko Yoshida's life, yet also sealed away Yuko's father and vanished soon after that, becomes the thread that binds them together as true friends. Finding what happened to their mutual savior brings them even closer together, to be practically like sisters.
- Batman and the first two Robins bonded over their parents being violently killed in front of them.
- He also bonded with Green Lantern Hal Jordan the same way; for all the different ways they're at odds with each other, they're still boys who lost their fathers early on. There's even some symmetry in how their fathers died and what they did about it: Bruce's father was killed by a criminal, so Bruce fights crime. Hal's father died in a plane crash, so Hal became a test pilot (who also fights crime, but the test pilot thing is more integral to his personality).
- Implied in one Star Wars comic starring Boba Fett. Boba's latest target tries to throw him off by pointing him in the direction of a possible Jedi in hiding. Boba tracks the man down and blows up his house, but discovers that the man is no Jedi. He is merely the son of a Jedi who died in the battle of Geneosis (the same battle in which Boba's father Jango lost his life) and was left with nothing but his father's lightsaber as a keepsake. The man starts to cry as he states that he had to grow up without a father, remarking that he doubts Boba would be able to understand. As Boba recalls the moment he held Jango's severed head as a child, the man's own son arrives on the scene. He asks Boba if he's going to kill them both. In the next scene Boba tracks down and finishes off his original target.
- Grandville: One of the first things that allows Billie to warm up to LeBrock is him revealing his father died by fire during the French independence fights. Since both of Billie's parents died in a British separatist bombing, it allows to sink in for her that despite their opposing nations, they both know loss and have to live with it.
- In the original Pre-Crisis comics, Superman and Supergirl bonded over their lost parents as soon as they met.
- In Locke & Key, Kinsey and Jamal share stories about their respective dads on more than one occasion.
- In Fly Free, Robin helps a lot of the messed up kids in Konoha by sharing parts of her past or things she's encountered. In Sasuke's case, it was this paired with their over-arching standing of being the Sole Survivors of their respective homes (the Uchiha for Sasuke and Ohara for Robin).
- In Perfection is Overrated, Mai and Nao chance upon each other in the hospital, where Mai visited Takumi and Nao visited her comatose mother; Mai learns about Nao's comatose mother at this point. However, one thing that helps them come to an understanding with each other over time is the contrasts between them—Mai has taken care of Takumi since her parents' deaths while Nao has no one of the sort, and Nao's mother could one day awaken from her coma—realizing the difference in their circumstances helps them understand the other and see their own past decisions in a new light.
- In The Ariana Black Series, Ariana and Neville first get together when she's depressed about her dead mother/absentee father and he tells her about his parents' mental health issues.
- In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, it's explained as the reason that Papa Smurf is the sole parent figure of a hundred Smurfs.
- In the MLP:FiM fan fiction Our True Colors, this is what cements the bond between Applejack and Pinkie Pie.
- If a Neon Genesis Evangelion fic features (or is focused on) the Shinji/Asuka pairing, this is inevitable:
- Shinji and Asuka in Advice and Trust, which helps solidify their Relationship Upgrade. They started bonding when Shinji mentioned that his father abandoned him right after his mother's death... and Asuka muttered that the same thing happened to her.
- In Ghosts of Evangelion, Shinji and Asuka often talk about their mothers and their motivations. Their talks help them to get closer.
- In Thousand Shinji, after challenging Asuka to a duel and winning, Shinji demanded that she told him why she was always so hurt and angry. Asuka told him about her mother's death -which reminded Shinji of his own mother's death-, and he told her that he was an orphan, too. Their relationship got better since that point on, and they eventually got together.
- In the seventh chapter of Children of an Elder God, Shinji and Asuka do this. Shinji told her that his father abandoned him after his mothers death and then he asked her what her parents were like. She replied that they were dead, and they talked about how they lost their respective parents.
- During the After the End episodes of The Second Try, Shinji and Asuka's relationship strengthened -among other things- because they opened up to each other and talked about their respective mothers' loss.
- In chapter 4 of Evangelion 303, Shinji talks Asuka about his parent issues: he tells her how his mother died when he was a little child, his father foisted him on a caretaker alleging that he was protecting him, and he doesn't get along well with his father's girlfriend. After hearing his history, Asuka reflects that they're Not So Different after all.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide:
- In chapter 8, Shinji and Asuka talk about their respective mothers' demises and how they feel about their loss, and as a result of it, their relationship improves.
- Asuka didn't like Keiko and she thought that that girl shouldn't be a pilot. In chapter 9, Keiko reveals that she lost her mother and explains how she was affected by it, leading Asuka to, in spite of herself, feel pity for her.
- Last Child of Krypton: Asuka and Shinji do this when they start living together, and they talk each other about their missing mothers.
- Once More with Feeling: After defeating Gaghiel, Asuka asks Shinji about his mother. He answers that shes dead, and Asuka feels guilty and asks how she died. When Shinji tells her the story, she realizes that she empathizes with him.
Asuka took a long, deep breath as he leapt up, dashing away the flood of emotions that Shinji's effortless penetration of the barriers she had erected had brought up. His story of how he had lost his mother was so similar, the skeptical, College educated part of her mind immediacy denied the possibility of a pure coincidence, but she simply didn't know what to think... except that perhaps Shinji Ikari might not be the stuck up, show off jerk she had thought he was...
- The Child of Love: When Misato told Shinji how Asukas mother died, he felt he could understand Asuka better now because he was also an orphan. Later on, Shinji opens up to her and talks about his mothers death, and Asuka says hes the only one she can trust because hes the only one can understand her.
Shinji: I saw her crying in her sleep once. Poor Asuka... I understand now how she feels.
- In the Aftermath of the Games universe, this was how Sci-Twi and Dog Spike bonded during their backstories; Spike was the Sole Survivor of a horrible case of rabies that wiped out his family. He went into such a deep depression that none of the humans would consider him as a pet because he wasn't as energetic as the other dogs. Around the same time, the 13-year-old Sci-Twi's parents were killed by a Drunk Driver, so Shining Armor and Cadance decided to get her a pet in order to help ease her grief. When Sci-Twi heard what happened to Spike's family, she chose to adopt him, and in the present day they are completely inseparable.
- In The Form of Survival, Yiereth bonds with both Kanan (her lineage-nephew) and Barriss over their lost Masters.
- This is a point which helps to forge some of the friendships between students at Skyhold Academy Yearbook. A number of the students, such as Cole and Jim, are orphans, and their backgrounds are directly related to how they came to the school.
- In The Flash Sentry Chronicles: When Lightning Blitz helps Big Mac with his Apple bucking, the two slowly start to bond when Big Mac tells Lightning that his parents are both dead, and Lightning says he knows how that feels since he lost his mom at about the same age.
- In A Triangle in the Stars, Steven and Bill touch upon the fact that their parents, one or both, are no longer with them.
- In Kara of Rokyn's backstory, Kal and Kara bonded over the fact that both of them lost their parents at a very young age.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians fanfic Aska, Nico and Ayra bond over losing a sibling.
- In Golden Threads Tie Us, neither Severa nor Lucina feel comfortable talking about their deceased parents, but the fact of being war orphans helps them grow closer to each other.
"I learned from Father," Lucina admitted, and her expression was fond for an instant. "When he taught me, though, it was so I could lead the Shepherds in the future and do duties such as defending innocents from bandits and robbers. I don't think...this is what he was expecting me to use my swordsmanship for." She paused and frowned at nothing in particular.
"Ah," was all Severa could think to say. None of them usually talked about their parents, and that went double for Lucina. Lucina's recollections felt too personal for Severa to feel completely at ease, but for some reason, she didn't feel as uncomfortable as she would have expected.
That was likely because Lucina and her had begun to grow closer, recently. Small things, like Lucina seeking her out for a meal, or to sit with under the pretense of a chat, but, more often than not, ended up with them sitting side by side without any exchange of words. Severa couldn't ever say she was similar to Lucina, but compared to their allies...she might be one of the few people who could begin to understand her.
- Footloose has a minor variation; Ren has a Disappeared Dad, and Ariel has a dead brother. They bond over this while screaming at a train. Ren and Reverend Moore (Ariel's father) also later have this scene together for a moment to establish that they are Not So Different.
- Jumanji had Alan Parrish talking with Judy and Peter about their dead parents after learning his own parents have died.
- In The Parent Trap (1961) and The Parent Trap (1998), bonding over their respective missing parents (one missing mom and one disappeared dad) leads to The Reveal that the two girls are Separated at Birth sisters.
- In The Mighty Ducks, Coach Bombay and Charlie have a scene in which they talk about growing up without their fathers. (Charlie's mom divorced, while Bombay's father died.)
- While it's never explicitly spelled out, the Adaptation Expansion in Beauty and the Beast (2017) creates a sense of this between Belle and the Beast. The major turning point in Belle's feelings for the Beast comes not only because he saves her life, but because she learns from Mrs. Potts that he was a sweet, innocent child until he lost his mother at a young age, like she did (and that his cruel father then raised him to be a Royal Brat, in sharp contrast to Maurice). Later, the Beast uses a magic book left by the Enchantress to fulfill Belle's lifelong wish of seeing her parents' old home and helps her finally learn how her mother died, which serves as another invaluable step forward in their budding romance.
- Cinderella (2015) enhances Cinderella and Prince Kit's relationship with some of this. The King is mortally ill in this version, and at the ball, the long-orphaned Ella shares a moment of sympathy with the prince over this fact. In a deleted scene, they also talk about their deceased mothers together, and the film's final scene shows the royal newlyweds gazing together at portraits of their parents, now all four dead, and Ella remarking that they would have loved each other, before they emerge onto the palace balcony to greet their people.
- This seems to be a mainstay of Disney's live-action remakes: In Dumbo (2019), the titular baby elephant bonds with two human children whose mother has died, paralleling his separation from his own mother.
- An Invoked Trope in Point Break. Johnny Utah pretends his family died tragically to get close to Tyler Endicott, who is an orphan. She's understandably pissed off when she later discovers he's an undercover FBI agent and realises he made the story up.
- To All the Boys I've Loved Before: Lara Jean and Peter are on opposite sides of the Popularity Food Chain, but grow closer because they connect over their lost parents — Lara Jean's mother died when she was a kid, and Peter's father walked out on his family.
- In one story of TKKG, two side characters do this.
- In A Little Princess, Sarah calms the tantrum-throwing Lottie by bonding with her over their dead mothers.
- The lead characters of Left Behind: The Kids bond together when their parents are either raptured or killed.
- In The Lord of the Rings, both Faramir and Éowyn lost their mothers as small children, and then their fathers (or father figures) in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. They bond over this and other things in the Houses of Healing.
- Jerin and Ren in A Brother's Price both have dead fathers and living mothers, and talk a little about it.
- Galaxy of Fear: Army of Terror has the Arranda kids and Luke Skywalker bonding over all of them being recent orphans.
- Leo and Frank in The Heroes of Olympus, spend most of the third book disliking each other, but eventually bond over the deaths of their mothers.
- In Leviathan, Prince Alex and Deryn/Dylan became close when they shared the pain of losing their parent(s).
- A variant in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: after the death of Harry's Parental Substitute Sirius, the only person who is really able to console him is Luna, who tells him about how her mother died. It marks the first time Harry feels sorry for Luna, since before she had come off as kooky at best and annoying at worst.
- In Seraphina, the title character and her love interest Lucian Kiggs bond over the fact that they both lost their mothers as children: Seraphina's mother died in childbirth, while Kiggs's died in a shipwreck.
- The Last Dogs: Journey's End: In a case of dogs bonding with their lost owners or siblings, Max gets Spots the bluetick coonhound to open up about the wall and how Spots' brother Dots got taken. He appeals to his fondness for entertaining children by remarking that his owner Emma had wanted to be a conductor when she grew up. This warms the old coonhound's heart, and he becomes more helpful.
- One of the (many, many) bonds Agents Mulder and Scully share in The X-Files is that both lose their respective fathers early in the series. Scully's father dies unexpectedly of heart attack in season 1. Mulder's father is murdered by the conspiracy in season 2.
- On Bones one of the first times Brennan was shown sympathising with another human being was when she revealed to a foster kid (whose foster brother had been killed) that she had been in the foster system too.
- On Leverage Parker and Hardison have this during "The Stork Job".
- In the first season of Glee, Kurt and Finn bond over Kurt's dead mom and Finn's dead dad, Kurt telling Finn that he sometimes lies down on the floor next to the dresser that still smells of his mom's perfume, and Finn showing Kurt some of his dad's things. Later, Kurt's dad and Finn's mom marry each other.
- The George Lopez Show, George is about to send Max's troublemaking friend Ricky home to his mother, only to find that, much like his own childhood, the mother is an alcoholic and the father abandoned them. Rather than leave Ricky with his mother (who is obviously very drunk), he offers to let him stay over for a few days and winds up arranging for Ernie to be his foster parent.
- In House of Anubis it's surprising how long it took for two people to bond over their parental issues, as everyone seems to have them. In this case, it was Jerome and Joy.
- Subverted in The Vampire Diaries. Anna tells Elena about her plan to open the tomb containing Katherine so she can free her mother, who was imprisoned there a long time ago. Elena sympathizes with her, but Anna says, "Yeah, I think we'll skip the dead mom bonding so you can start serving a purpose."
- Elliot and Angela in Mr. Robot first met when his father and her mother died from a toxic leak at the company they worked for.
- Law & Order: UK: DS Matt Devlin uses this to play good cop with a murder suspect when she describes her father as "a bastard". He responds, "Are we related then?", implying that his own father was abusive as well.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In "Mindreacher", Dr. Candace Maguire is quickly able to form a strong emotional bond with her patient Judith Wilder as they both lost their mothers when they were young. Candace's mother was sent to a psychiatric institution while Judith's mother died of Parkinson's disease when she was four. Candace even admits that Judith reminds her of herself when she was in her early teens.
- In the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Sals's Pizza", there is Jurisdiction Friction between the NYPD detectives and the fire department. They argue over who gets to investigate a crime scene of arson. Boone from the fire department warms up to Peralta the cop after he hears why Peralta cares so much for Sal's pizza place. Jake's father was a baseball coach and took the team to eat pizza after every game, but left his family... and one of the worst things about it was that Jake couldn't go with him to Sal's anymore. Turns out Boone's father also left his family.
Boone: [crying] Sorr... I'm sorry. I'm sorry that happened to you. I mean, what kind of dad just... Just leaves his son like that? Look, you're... You're a cop and... And I'm a firefighter, but underneath all of it, we're just two boys whose dads abandoned them. And you and I, we're gonna solve this thing, together. Okay?
- Ace Attorney:
- Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth: Miles Edgeworth and Kay Faraday. Both of their fathers were lawyers who were killed in the courthouse when they were about ten years old. This parallel does not go unnoticed by Edgeworth.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies introduces Apollo Justice's best friend, as they got to know each other by sharing their grief over the loss of their mothers (although Apollo didn't lose his, she only went missing). Too bad he's the concerned case's victim.
- The first Mega Man Star Force game has its fair share of this. Geo and Sonia bond over his missing dad and her dead mother. Geo and Pat have an almost-romance over Geo's missing dad and Pat being an orphan.
- A Dummied Out conversation in Mother 3 has Kumatora and Duster muse about how none of the three human protagonists have mothers. Kumatora is genuinely an orphan, and Duster's mother seemingly died before the White Ship departed. Likewise Hinawa isn't even confirmed to be Lucas's genetic mother.
- In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Rean bonds with Fie easily thanks to them not having their real parents around.
- In I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC an early installment had Superman introduce Spider-Man to Batman because Spider-Man 3 had a darker theme to it. Spider-Man and Batman get into an argument when Batman doesn't see the dark aspect of Spidey's origins and character, but quickly settle their differences over their mutual dead relatives.
Batman: Your parents, and your uncle?
Batman: Never gets any easier, does it?
Spider-Man: No, it doesn't.
- Critical Role episode 18 has Vex and Zahra become friends this way after their initial animosity.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender loves this trope, usually with regard to Katara and Sokka's mother (who was killed in a Fire Nation raid of their colony):
- Katara and Haru, as Haru's father was taken away from his family by the Fire Nation due to laws against earthbending in his town. This leads Katara to help him and his dad, who is on the same prison rig as Haru is taken to, when he gets arrested for the same reason.
- Jet attempts to use this to manipulate Katara and Sokka into destroying a town occupied by the Fire Nation.
- Katara and Zuko, during their Locked in a Room scene in the season 2 finale; when Katara mentions that the Fire Nation took her mother away, Zuko says, "That's something we have in common," and tensions cool for a while, until Zuko's Friend or Idol Decision between siding with Azula or making a HeelFace Turn leads him to completely ignore all that bonding and side with Azula.
- As a result, when Zuko sides with the Gaang for good, Katara's the last person to trust him until he helps her find her mother's killer.
- Mako and Asami continue the tradition in the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra.
- In Young Justice, Zatanna's mother isn't in the picture, and she suddenly loses her father when he sacrifices himself to become the vessel of Doctor Fate, and prevent him from keeping hold of Zatanna. While Robin has been forbidden by Batman to reveal his secret identity (and, with it, the fact that his parents were murdered when he was nine), he's usually the one shown grieving with or comforting her. He had a crush on her already, but the show seems to imply that his empathy was what pushed them towards their kiss in the finale.
- An odd example from the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Karai is giving April a Curb-Stomp Battle as April, near the breaking point, begins recounting all the weirdness and trouble she's had, ending with her (previously unmentioned) Missing Mom. Something about this causes Karai (who also has no visible mother in her life) to hesitate for just a second, allowing April to knock her down a staircase and escape. But in a later episode, she still tries to kill her.
- Kaijudo: Ray and Allie bond over Ray's Disappeared Dad and Allie's Missing Mom, thus starting their friendship.
- In one episode of Tangled: The Series, Rapunzel tries to get Eugene and Cassandra to bond by locking them in a cell together for a day. Eventually, the two get into a discussion about Cassandra's father, the Captain of the Royal Guard, and Cassandra reveals that he is her adoptive father and she has never met her real parents. Eugene also reveals that he was an orphan as well, having never met his parents either.
- Star Wars Rebels:
- In the first episode of the series, when Ezra gets mixed up with the Ghost crew, he befriends Sabine, the crew member most closest to his age. Ezra asks her what happened to her parents, to which she simply answers, "The Empire.", and she asks what happened to his, but is called away to a meeting before he can answer. Later in the episode, Ezra reveals that he doesn't have any parents either. Then later in the season, when Ezra refuses the opportunity to discover the fate of his parents (because his thought process is that if they're dead, then they're gone, but if they're alive, then they never came back for him and/or he could have saved them), Sabine urges him otherwise so he can find closure. Much later in the show, the two switch roles, with Sabine being the one reluctant to see her estranged family and Ezra telling her that she can still make amends with them while he'll never be able to see his parents again.
- Kanan touches on this with Ezra in one episode. Ezra is upset with people getting in the way of him finding out more information about his parents, and when Kanan tells him to calm down, Ezra tells him that he doesn't know how it feels. Kanan says that he's right, because as a Jedi, he was taken from his parents as a baby. Ezra apologizes and Kanan tells him that it's okay, it's too late for him now, but not for Ezra.
- Fry and Leela in the Futurama episode "Xmas Story." Fry, a Human Popsicle who has outlived his entire family, is sorry for himself until he realizes that Leela, who never knew her parents, may have it worse.
- Primal (2019): Inverted. The thing that bonded Spear (a caveman) and Fang (a tyrannosaur) was that they both lost their families. One day while hunting for food for his family, Spear hears screaming and runs to see his wife and children being eaten alive by a pack of Horned Tyrannosaurs. Then after some time has past, he sees the same Horned Tyrannosaurs attacking Fang and her babies. Spear steps in and teams up with Fang to fight them. When it appears that they have slain all the Horned Tyrannosaurs, Fang's babies come and gently play with Spear's hair. Then the Horned Tyrannosaurus alpha appears and before Spear or Fang can do anything, it eat Fang's babies alive, to their shock and horror. Spear and Fang fight together and kill the alpha. Nether of them are satisfied, having both failed to protect their families. Fang just lays down while Spear sadly walks alway. Later, while walking on a beach, Spear sees Fang following him, and after a moment of consideration, Spear accepts Fang, and the two head off into the night as a new family.
- Blue Diamond's proper introduction in Steven Universe has her crying over the loss of Pink Diamond. Greg (who's helping Steven investigate) introduces himself and tells her he knows how she feels, as he's also lost someone. Blue Diamond is so touched by his empathy, she decides to save him from the Cluster by bringing him to the Human Zoo. Of course, if Greg had mentioned that he was mourning Rose Quartz, who happened to be the person who shattered Pink Diamond, the scene would have gone differently. And then it turns out that they actually were mourning the same person.