If you have lost a loved one, especially a parent, the grief comes in waves. The strangest things can bring on tears and a laugh at the same time. How is that possible? When you cry and laugh in the same breath, you feel a bit schizophrenic. After a recent chat with a good friend about the passing of her dad and the loss of my mom, both in 2020, we both feel like nothing will ever be the same again, yet we really want to learn something from these precious losses in our lives. So what can be learned from the loss of a parent? I am so glad you asked!
It’s Hard and Never Gets Easy
I recently read a quote from Debra J. Umberson, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, “We tend to think of ourselves as ‘children’ until we lose our parents. It is only then that we are on the front line of mortality. The loss gives us a different perspective on our own lifespans and where we fit in terms of generations.” As an only child, my family was small to begin with and now it’s just me and my dad. I quickly feel like the role of ‘orphan’ is approaching with each passing day. Throughout different stages of my life, I have so wished I had a sibling, but no time more than now. Even with all the wonderful, dear friends I have, there’s a deep sense and feeling of being alone when you look to the future without parents.
When you think of the stages of one’s life, your very first relationship is with your parents. Good or bad, that example of how you relate to them and how they relate to each other impacts you for a lifetime; when a parent dies, you’ve lost your anchor and a point of reference in life is gone. It is that feeling of “Where do I fit now in the grand scheme of things?”
Going Home is a Painful Reminder
With my dad now in an assisted living facility, he misses home. Familiarity with surroundings and things he’s accumulated over a lifetime give him a feeling of normalcy. But when dad and I go to the house he shared with my mom, so far, to me, it’s a painful reminder of loss. The house has an eerie sense of mom, not gone, but perhaps running an errand. Mom’s things are strewn about the bedroom, jewelry she wore from her last outing, notes on the nightstand, magazines she was reading, now some seven years old, it all is sadness and pain. For my dad, those reminders don’t seem to bring on hurt, but of comfort. In time, maybe I will find comfort in the things of my mom, but for now, visits only bring tears.
So with the pain and sadness of loss, what is the takeaway or is there one?
Don’t Be Sad It’s Over, Be Happy That It Happened
You can go as far down the rabbit hole of grief as you want, but what does that get you? More pain, sadness, and depression. So what my friend and I who have been discussing loss have discovered is that we need to focus on the lives of our parents and how they impacted us, good and bad. They shaped us in ways no one else ever could. We have decided to support each other in our grief and find joy in the lives our parents lived for 80 plus years. Sure we have bad days when the tears won’t stop, but little by little, day-by-day, being thankful for the lives our parents lived is where healing is starting.