Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

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.

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2 thoughts on “Losing a Parent

  1. I wanna give you a huge hug. Even though I still have both my parents (thank goodness!), both my parents lost one of their parents when they were very young (my Mom was 20, my Dad 33 when they lost their mothers)… and only after my Granddad and great-aunt died (which I was both close to) did it hit how much harder it must have been for my parents to lose one of their parents at such an early age. It’s like you said, when you’re a kid/teen, it just doesn’t register the same way it does now.
    Sooner or later we will all gow through this, it’s an inevitable fact of life. I just wish that it would be rather later than sooner…. I can only imagine how much you must miss your Dad. I am so close to both of my parents and cannot imagine them not being around anymore.

  2. Such a beautiful post Kristen – I love your openness and honesty. I think it’s so interesting that you point out that many people you know have lost a parent, but its just not something that is discussed. I have found so many life experiences are like this (having a miscarriage is one that comes to mind) – there is something so amazing about being able to share the hard stuff and finding empathy and support where you least expect it. It’s awesome that you are brave enough to share and open those opportunities for connection. Sending you so many hugs!

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