You remember the special phone call you received each year from your parents on your birthday. You hold close your father’s favourite pair of slippers. They are the slippers he kept at your place and used when he visited you. You go into your kitchen to do some baking and the recipe is one your mom gave you. You have to sit down and compose yourself. You rearrange the suite in your basement your parents used in their later years. You realize as you clean up the area even their fingerprints left on the furniture have now gone.
The memories we may have of our parents represent a major part of our lives. Their deaths initially take us into uncharted territory. It is a territory full of emotion and change. We now take on a new title of identification, “adult orphan.” Our parents never died before. It may take a while for the shock to subside. One may describe this as feeling numb. We may be devoid of words for a time in coming to grips with this loss. As shock begins to subside it can result in a deep expression of grief that seemed to pass us by at first.
When my father died I didn’t like the thought of him lying in the hospital morgue. A few days after my mother died I thought I heard her calling my name. The grief experienced after the death of parents may be of a profound nature. It is unique. It does not feel like anything else one has experienced. It is final. It cannot be fixed.
Our parents are not coming back. This realization can seem too much for us to process. It can be brutal on our emotions. Days may drag on as if never to end Nights may crush us with loneliness.
In the mercy of God we may begin to sense enough that life will forever be changed. The realization I am an adult orphan did not strike me until the death of my mother. Dad had died a few years before her. My life had taken on a different status. I was no longer someone’s son. It struck me as strange. I asked myself question, like “what do I do now I have no parents?”
My grief drew me to my writing. Words helped me express this path once foreign in my journey through life. I wrote a poem that I included at the beginning of this post. I don’t claim to be a poet. I wrote the words for the sole purpose of giving expression to my grief.
Death comes to us all. Regardless of the unrealistic view many in the western world have of death it is still a part of life. It will not allow us to evade, deny or pretend it does not exist. Death came for our parents and will come for us.
When you consider your own children you may look at them and think to yourself, “Where did the time go? It seems to have flown by.” Now at this juncture of your life you may be reflecting on similar thoughts. “When did my parents become old?” “I still needed them and now they’re gone.” Life is so different now.
You may be in the initial shock of losing your parents. Perhaps it has been a week or two since your last parent died. There are funeral or memorial service or celebration of life details to now put into action. It may be the funeral gathering etc. has past and life goes on as usual for many. Not for you however. You are a grieving daughter or son. You are a mourner. You are still you but someone is missing.
In my experience with grieving people I know some are hard on themselves. They fall into the trap of such things as “stages of grief.” They think there is a certain way one must now act. They listen to the voices of other people who in their ignorance think “you should be over it by now.” Your grief process is unique to you. You will live with it and honour it as you choose.
Perhaps the following questions may help you in your life without your parents. How do you honour your parents now they are physically missing from you through death? What legacy have your parents left you? In what ways do you remind other people of your parents? What did you learn from them about grief and loss? What is your grief journey like right now?
Blessings to you as you now live without your parents. Live on remembering them. Your love for them goes on.
NOTE: When Parents Die: Part One, Estrangement, “Not all adult orphans look back on their relationship with their parents with fondness.”Alan Anderson, https://scarredjoy.ca/, When Parents die Part One: Estrangement, Dec. 6, 2018.