One of my oldest and dearest friends recently lost her mom. It was a hard-fought battle and a message I had dreaded for a long time. When I spoke to my friend later that day, she seemed ok, given what had happened - but a mutual friend had said to her: "Welcome to The Club."
It was something we had spoken about many times in our group - the fact that we had all buried each other's parents and assisted in the aftermath.
Even those of us with siblings suddenly feel a sense of loneliness - our parents no longer stand between us and The Great Beyond. Like the last leaf in fall who suddenly is let go - floating freely - unmoored from anything in the Universe....
Just to be clear, families come in many forms and all of those who raised us are included in this idea. I always say I have lost three parents, because I consider my stepmother Eva to have been my parent (see her story of courage here). Some folks have many step-folks, some are adopted, some are raised by grandparents. Nonetheless, when that last parental figure goes, something.....shifts....
It's tough to put your finger on and it depends on your family situation. Some folks have been their parents' caregiver for years and years - it has taken up so much of their time and energy that they have forgotten how to take care of themselves or who they are. Their identity is deeply entwined with their mother or father's needs and their ability to meet them. Some find a way to care for someone else, others suddenly realize that they need to reorganize their thinking and their life in general towards themselves. Health needs may have been put off, household tasks undone, personal debt can skyrocket - the constant intensity of worry and crisis is exhausting. Once their charge is no longer suffering, they may need to seek self-care - for a long time.
If the last parent who passes leaves what I call a "lumpy legacy" of abuse, neglect or worse, if you have spent years and years fighting for survival or to be heard and believed, all of that comes to a screeching halt. No more battles - at least not with the parent. Now the battle begins within yourself, to figure out who you are without an opponent on the outside.
It's a role we never thought we would have - how can you be an orphan when you have parents? But it is the inevitable path - and grants membership in a club you may not have wanted to belong in. I have found great comfort and camaraderie in that club.
I would love to know how this subject and this reality has impacted you and what you have found useful in addressing it? Drop a note below and let me know.
Wishing Peace to you all.
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