When my mother died three months after my father had passed away my oldest brother said to me, “now we are the older generation…we are next in-line.” That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. My brother was right, we were now the old folks of our family. We were forced to look at our own mortality. Our identities changed instantly too. We were no longer the son or daughter of John and Jesse. We were their adult orphans. So, even though we were grown ups we were parentless. Parents are our first relationships. The way any of us feels about ourselves comes from the way we interacted with the two people who gave us life. How we were brought up forms our core belief about who we are as individuals. We cannot replace our parents once they are gone. Even bad parents love their children as close to unconditionally as possible. In most cases no one else loves you as wholly as your mom or dad or if you are lucky both. When they die that sense of being loved no matter how you behave is gone.
You might have a hard time coping for a while. I used to travel a lot for my work. Whenever I flew home my parents’ house was closer to the airport so I would always stop to see mom on my way home. For about a year after she died I erroneously took that exit off the freeway countless times…picked up the telephone to call mom for advice or to report something awesome. Only to be disappointed time and again. I finally smacked my forehead enough times that it eventually sank in to my consciousness the sad truth was that I no longer had a dad or a mom.
People around you who have not lost a parent or both parents yet do not understand what it feels like. So, you might not get the support you need after a parent dies because there is the expectation that we will outlive our parents. Well, I am here to tell you that may be true but it doesn’t make it any easier. The bond between us and our parents starts in the womb people! For me my mom’s death was nearly as difficult as the death of my little boy. There was a lot more baggage with my mom’s death too. Unless you are an only child, there is always sibling drama. In fact, if you had a strong relationship with your sibs before you became orphans, the loss of your second parent usually strengthens your bond. If you had difficult sib relationships prior to the passing of your parents that difficulty gets magnified too. My mom was the glue. Family gatherings after mom followed dad in death were not the same.
If you are overcome with the sense of loss and upset because you didn’t say all that you should have…write a letter or a poem or just a few lines in a note. Memorialize your parents by planting a tree or bush in their honor. Speak about your feelings to your siblings or friends. Once again, don’t beat yourself up with woulda, shoulda, couldas…give yourself a break. No one is perfect—even though your mom probably thought so.