Adult orphans – When both your parents have died
When a parent dies, people immediately ask “how old they were” as if that is some sort of gauge of how you will grieve. Fact is that no matter their age, you will grieve them deeply – and in time it will be less acute – but you will always be thinking of them.
When both our parents die, we lose two of the witnesses to our own lives. They hold the same set of memories and history of the family we spent time growing up in, and then as an adult being an intrinsic part of. Good or bad, no-one perhaps knows us so intimately in our formative years. Hopefully for you, it was an un-conditional love.
When we recover a little from their significant loss we start to examine their legacies. This gradual investigation leads us to distinguish which characteristics are worthy of keeping, and those that will positively inform our next chapter of life. We find pleasure in “hearing” their sayings in our own dialogue, of trusting the morals well taught, of smiling when we see a hint of their smile or eyes in our own children.
Professor Irvin Yalom so eloquently describes their potential legacy in a concept he calls “Rippling”.
Of all the ideas that have emerged from my years of practice to counter a person’s death anxiety and distress at the transience of life, I have found the idea of ‘rippling’ singularly powerful. Rippling refers to the fact that each of us creates – often without our conscious intent or knowledge – concentric circles of influence that may affect others for years, even for generations. That is, the effect we have on other people is in turn passed on to others, much as the ripples in a pond go on and on until they’re no longer visible but continuing at a nano level. The idea that we can leave something of ourselves, even beyond our knowing, offers a potent answer to those who claim that meaninglessness inevitably flows from one’s finiteness and transiency. ………
……. Rippling, as I use it, refers instead to leaving behind something from your life experience; some trait; some piece of wisdom, guidance, virtue, comfort that passes on to others, known or unknown.
Further interesting reading
The peculiar grief of the adult orphan ; Dealing with grief: When a Parent Dies; 6 Reasons a Parent’s Death is a Special Kind of Loss; Ten Steps to Grieving the Loss of a Parent;Death of a Parent: Transitions to a New Adult Identity by Debra Umberson; The Orphaned Adult: Understanding and Coping with Grief and Change after the Death of Our Parents by Alexander Levy, 2000
If you have a story to share about your parents and how you managed after their deaths you are invited to share openly here.