Losing a Parent
If we’re facebook friends, you may have noticed that I posted this article yesterday from NPR. I actually heard the interview on my commute into work yesterday morning and it left me with that overwhelming, emotional feeling that only comes with the understanding people who have lost a parent(s) feel. Even if you have not endured this grief, I’m sure you’ve lost someone in your life and I think many of the things Scott Simon say here are true of all types of loss.
What hit me the most from the interview- and the thing that brought me to tears while driving- was the idea that we never really grow up until we lose a parent. It’s something I’ve felt since December 2013 when I lost my Dad- and something I struggled to articulate, even though life changed that day forever. It’s amazing to me how the struggle through grief is both so different and so similar for people– I didn’t lose my father to a long illness like Simon did with his mother, nor did we have a complicated family history that was discussed over the last few days of his life. Yet, we share the same sense of loss, growing up, and realizing the shift in life that happened the day our parent was gone.
I also really relate with the line about how our parents pour the best parts of themselves into us. I always joked around that I got my father’s stubbornness, but I also got so many of his incredible qualities too- creativity, kindness, humor. In a cynical world where so many people blame their upbringing, parents, family, and so on for all their issues in life, I’m reminded to be grateful once again for the amazing pieces of his personality he passed on to me ( and even for the stubbornness sometimes too!)
The other thing about losing a parent that has sort of surprised me is, honestly, that I didn’t realize how many of my peers had similar experiences. Maybe it’s because it’s a tough thing to bring up, or because prior to losing my father, it wasn’t even something on my radar, which is sort of strange since my Dad’s father died at 67, which is certainly young– but maybe because my Dad and aunt were older than I am now, it didn’t register in the same way. I was also 15 and the family, though grieving, worked hard to keep things ‘normal’ for my brother and I. But now I’m part of this club– a club we all wish we were not a part of– that knows the difficulty that comes with holidays, but also knows the random moments of sadness that are often all encompassing and feel like a heavy coat, no matter the time passed from the death.
This club’s members don’t want to be in it, but are grateful for the kindness of others who are there. Even when someone’s parent passes at an elderly age or after a long, excruciating illness, you still support through the grief, no matter how anticipated it might have been. Loss and change are hard to work through and make sense of– Cheryl Strayed (of Wild fame, who lost her mom to cancer) wrote in one of her Dear Sugar letters to another woman who lost her mother, that it would never be okay that they were motherless. And it’s true. No matter the circumstances of death, losing one of the parents who put you on this earth, gave you love, and a home –heck even if they didn’t give you the latter two– is a tough thing to go through. But we’re in it together, growing up as we grieve along.