My Experience: Losing Both Parents Early

Imagine this. You are 18. You are by legal terms an “adult”, but in all other aspects you are kid trying to find your way in this crazy world. This is often a time when many people go off to college, start a career, party, make mistakes, begin romantic relationships – basically explore what life has to offer before having adult responsibilities.

Now, imagine at the same time – your dad has dementia. While most kids are going off exploring the world, you are partly stuck in “adult mode” because your relationship is changing from child to caretaker.

Fast forward a year and you are told (within the same month) that both your parents have cancer. Both have critical surgeries at the same time (and I mean are actually in the hospital at the exact same time) and you are left wondering whether you and your sibling will be orphaned by the end of the year.

Now again, imagine getting through that year (thinking you are in the clear) only to lose one of your parents the following year from the same cancer just speeding up. Your world suddenly crashes. You are left picking up the pieces of your own heart, while also trying to be a rock for your mom who just lost her soulmate.

Fast forward eleven years. You will fight to find some type of normalcy within those years, but every time you think you are close, another health scare comes about for your only living parent. That’s right – the big “C” word keeps coming back AND in different forms.

Now you are slightly over 30, and you must relive your worst nightmare again – watching a parent you love so much take their last breath. Not only are you flooded with emotions of grief and anger – but you must also be forced to put those emotions on hold, in order to step into the role of executer and fulfill the wishes of your parents’ estate.

You try your best to balance it all, keeping busy and taking care of your parents’ last wishes – yet everyday ends in tears because it doesn’t feel fair that life could be so cruel.

This – my friends – seems like a hellish story, but unfortunately for me and my brother – it isn’t just a story. It is reality.  

When one parent dies, life changes as we know it. We start to question life and its purpose. We start to imagine all the events they are going to miss and the memories that were shared. We start to think what we could have said or have done differently – or even just imagining one last moment to make everything right.

No matter how old we are, losing a parent is not easy. But what most people don’t know is that losing both parents before you’ve barely had a chance to start your own life – that, my friends, is a nightmare…and a nightmare that few can understand.

As a parentless 32-year-old, you begin to disassociate with others because of lack of understanding. When people ask specific questions about your parents, sometimes lies are told or avoidance of the subject altogether occurs in order to not utter the words “my parents aren’t alive anymore.”

Society tells is that we will all go through the five stages of grief. But anyone who has lost a parent, or both, knows that isn’t always the case. Some of us get lost in one stage for years, some of us skip some stages, and some of us never get to the point of acceptance.

I don’t know if I will ever fully get to the point of acceptance. But one thing I know for sure is that my brother and I will use these events to work on ourselves and our brother-sister relationship, so that we can make the most out of the short life we are given. We don’t expect others to understand what we have gone through – because we don’t even fully understand it ourselves. But, have sympathy…have patience…believe that we are doing the best we can under the crappy circumstances handed to us. Believe it or not, our parents did prepare us for this moment. And while emotionally it does not make the acceptance of either one of their deaths easier, we were set up as best as possible to know what to do and to do so with grace.

So now, we carry out each day in memory of Mom and Dad. We hope to make them proud, while equally healing the broken parts of ourselves that died slightly with them the days they went home to God.

So, if nothing else, take this from my story: Life is short. The time you think you have, you really don’t. And while it is quite cliché, each day should be lived like it is your last. You will lose family. You will lose friends. People will turn their back on you, and at the same time people will show up for you when you least expect it. Experiences (whether they good or bad) help our soul to grow. We all have a soul contract putting us here for a certain number of years. We cannot change that fact – only learn to grow from it. Allow yourself to grieve – whether that be from someone passing, a major life change, a job loss, WHATEVER. Just allow yourself to feel – even if it feels extremely uncomfortable. That is the only way you begin to process and move forward. You may never fully heal the way you want and go through the stages of grief in the order defined by society…BUT that is okay. Don’t be afraid to tell your story.  Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. We can all learn something from another’s story.

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#grief #loss #parents #lossofparents #griefjourney #griefsupport #mourning #healing #healingjourney

Watching Your Loved One Pass

“I’ll be seeing you…”

Billie Holiday
No photo description available.

It was April 24, 2010. I was twenty years old. My dad was sick with pancreatic cancer and had just gone through his second major surgery in two years. Most of my days were spent between college classes and the hospital room in which I slowly watched my dad deteriorate.

On that warm spring day in April, I remember sitting at my kitchen table catching up on my college homework, while my mom was at the hospital and my boyfriend was at work. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and my phone began to ring. It was my mom – “I think you should come to the hospital. Dad is not doing good.” By the sound of her voice, I knew it was serious – yet I also did not realize what the rest of the day would entail.

I called my boyfriend, who drove my car to work that day. “I need you to come home and take me to the hospital – Dad is not doing well.” Without hesitation, he left work and drove the 45 minutes home.

By the time we arrived at the hospital it was around 5pm. When I walked in the room, I could see the difference and I knew something was wrong. He was not responsive and, according to the doctor, was on a high dose of morphine. I held his hand and told him I loved him. Within those fifteen minutes, his breathing began to slow down. I kept saying, “We need a nurse, something is not right”. I ran out and grabbed one. When she looked at him, she said “It won’t be much longer.”

With those words, a range of emotions went through me. No matter how much you know someone is at the end of their life, you are never prepared for that moment itself.

I spent the next five minutes watching as the breaths got slower and slower. His body was shutting down in front of my eyes, as his soul was preparing to move on. Breathing was shallow…then the last breath came…I watched his tongue as he breathed in and his body went limp. It was 5:20pm. Within twenty minutes of arriving at the hospital, my dad was gone.

I immediately dropped to the floor and screamed. My boyfriend leaned down and held me as I cried in disbelieve. I couldn’t even look at my mom because of the immense amount of pain I felt. Did this really just happen? Is my dad really gone?

I spent the rest of the night in a fog, yet to this day I remember odd details like what I was wearing, what food I ate, and what my dad looked like when I left that hospital room that day. My senses were heightened even though I felt like I was no longer in my body.

One of the last things I remember that day was picking up a picture frame I gave to my dad that said “Daddy’s Little Girl”. As I held the picture frame in my hand, I looked at the two of us and said, “I will always be daddy’s little girl”. All of a sudden, the lights flickered. Lights that have never flicked in the twenty years I have lived in that house. You can call it coincidence, but I call it my dad. It was a sign that no matter how far away he was, he was always going to be in my heart.

To this day, my mom questions if she did the right thing by calling me the day my dad passed away. My response? I was meant to be there. Dad waited for me. I would not take that away for anything. The hard part has been making peace with those last images of my dad in the hospital bed. While I am glad I was there, remembering him in that room is still hard for me to picture – even ten years later.

Watching a loved one pass for that reason is a very selfless act. We do it to help that person move on to their forever home in Heaven. But, for us, still on Earth, there is no amount of preparation that will help you with that moment you say goodbye.

What helps is making every day count up until that last day. Fill it with laughter, fill it with joy, tell stories, and say “I love you”.

When that day comes, remind yourself how strong you are and that it is okay to grieve. We need time to grieve in order to move on. You’ll feel numb, you’ll feel pain, and you’ll feel anger. Let yourself feel those emotions.

Then take a step back, fill yourself with the good memories, and say “I’ll be seeing you…”.


#grief #loss #griefsupport #griefjourney #love #griefandloss #grieving #lifeafterloss #healing #babyloss #death #stillbirth #griefquotes #depression #miscarriage #bereavement #stillborn #anxiety #infantloss #mentalhealth #griefsucks #babylossawareness #selfcare #pregnancyloss #childloss #griefawareness #in #stillbornstillloved #suicide #bhfyp #parentloss #dad

The Holidays Without a Loved One

“Those we love never truly leave us. There are things death cannot touch.”Jack Thorne

Rewind time back to 2010 – the year my dad died and the first set of holidays without him by our side. Each day that passed was challenging, let alone a group of holidays which seemed so empty. My dad was a staple of the these special family days, especially Christmas. Some of the things I remember are the massive breakfasts he would make Christmas morning, as well as him setting up the video recorder the night before to tape us unwrapping each of our gifts.

These are memories that will never fade. Cancer cannot take these memories from me, like it took my dad. But, sometimes these memories, can hurt and be debilitating because they are just that – memories. I cannot go hug my dad Christmas morning and thank him for everything he has done. And this – no matter how many years go by – is still hard to overcome. The emptiness never fully goes away. It is just something you learn to manage.

It took years to get here but now I try to picture my dad here at Christmas, just in a different form. I see him sitting in the living room with a huge smile on his face watching us with joy. While we cannot communicate or hold each other, he nods to us acknowledging his presence. He is now an angel that overlooks us, keeping us safe and together. He would be so proud of how far we have all come.

If you know someone who has lost a loved one this year, check on them – call them, send them a letter, text them a simple “love you!” message. Most likely they are not okay. It takes years to learn how to manage that emptiness.

If you are the one who lost someone, whether it was this year or not, it is important to acknowledge how you feel and then do something about it. Celebrate your loved one in a way that will be healing to you. I went to visit my dad’s grave and I also wrote letters to him. Maybe you make a special ornament or you plant a tree in their honor. Whatever it is, make it memorable and don’t be afraid to say you need support. It is okay to hurt, just don’t let it consume you. Your loved one would not want that for you.

#loss #lossofaparent #christmas #grief #loss #griefsupport #griefjourney #griefandloss #griefquotes #grieving #mentalhealth #love #childloss #depression #stillborn #lifeafterloss #death #bereavement #anxiety #support #selfcare #griefsucks #griefawareness #healing #griefwork #bhfyp