Adults who lost a parent as a child
Once you become an adult with a life to live and bills to pay, the fact that you lost your parent at a young age seems to be pushed to the bottom of the list, but the injustice of it is simmering like a pressure cooker inside. It feels like it will explode at some point. You can't bring it up to people (cue: wide eyes, sympathetic faces, and questions), but it's not something you want ignored either. You don't quite know what to do with the nagging feeling you walk around with like a stone in your shoe.
You may have pictured things being different by now. You think you should "have gotten over this already. Why is this still bothering me?"
As a child and now adult, there may be a feeling of being a ship lost at sea; abandoned, lonely, scared, confused, powerless, and eventually numb. Many adults who lost a parent as a child report feeling jarred from the disruption and discontinuity that happened after the death, the lack of appropriate communication, and the dearth of support and understanding in the community.
You learned how to handle yourself eventually; you found your own way to survive, which looks different for different people:
- Getting through the day in a robotic fog that leaves you feeling empty, lonely, and purposeless: not knowing how you got here
- Feverishly working to please others, anticipating and delivering their needs so that you feel valuable and important, and like you matter.
- A constant presence of hollowness and defectiveness from never really receiving the nurturing you crave like water in the desert.
Stagnation and fear
You feel stuck. You've had a feeling that something has to change and you can't keep living your life as it is. There's that voice in the back of your head that is starting to question what you're doing and where you're going with your life. You see others living their lives in color while yours exists in black and white. But it's hard to fight the fear in the back of your head that tells you the other shoe is going to drop. You're not sure which decisions could lead to a negative outcome, so it seems easier to remain status quo. But that status quo sucks.
THE LONELINESS and numbing
You look around and find that others are living their seemingly full, happy lives and you feel like you just exist. You work incredibly hard and long hours at home or in the office. In your down time, you may just want to hide under the covers, anesthetize yourself with wine, Netflix, a book, carbs... You want to connect but you also just want to be alone.
It's just so unfair. It's too hard. Every holiday, anniversary, or other small events remind you and can change your mood on a dime.
You feel overwhelmed, anxious, and panicky about how you’re going to act like you’re fine when you’re crumbling inside. It's hard to fake it through conversations when you don't feel quite "right." You have never felt quite right around people because you had to figure out so much on your own with little guidance.
It's so easy to get caught up in comparing your station in life to your friends'. Why don't these things happen to others they way they happen to you? Many say that comparison is the thief of happiness. But comparing your life with a major loss to another's is apples and oranges. Simply not the same thing.
GRIEF, CONFUSION and bargaining
This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. The loss of your parent haunts your present life in an unrelenting way. What if you had never asked to go shopping that day? What if you could have done something differently that day to prevent the sequence of horrors?
You can transform
Let go of the drone of anguish, grief, and pain and move towards an existence of peace and acceptance.
Go from a place of emptiness that pulls you backward to one of fullness that propels you forward.
To be and feel alive, let go of guilt and responsibilities from the past to plan for the future.
This is an opportunity to engage with the big questions: Who am I- REALLY? What are my values? What gives my life meaning?
Arrive at your own door
You can meet your true self. You can become your own person. Take control of your own life.
You have arrived at the point where you are ready to embrace the change and shake things up.
My grandmother lost her mother at the age of 5. Her father was alone with 5 daughters in the midst of the Great Depression. He wasn't a warm or nurturing figure. Luckily my grandmother and her sisters had each other, but it wasn't a walk in the park. The ricochet and long term effects of this loss have had inevitable effects on future generations in my family. I was a witness to her stories about her childhood and growing up without a mother. While heart-wrenching and sad, she was a feisty resilient woman and one of the heroines of my life. My understanding of the experience through this lens has helped me to be sensitive, understanding and empathic to those who have come to me to work through the loss of their own parent when they were young.
I know it seems easier to go on pretending that it's fine. It may feel like too much to bear if you open up that box now. What is the cost if you do that? I wholeheartedly believe that you CAN embrace your power and drop the charade that everything is fine. I want you to know that you have a safe place to land in order to sort through the muck of this time. I want you to know that you have permission. To change. To create new rules to live by. To discover what else is out there for you. You are allowed to welcome new things into your life. It's not too late.
You will learn to cultivate your own courage and compassion to step into who you really are.