This is a very touchy subject for me, people often think that with time the reality gets better but it really does not. I lost my parents when I was 7 years old and 21 years later it still hurts, it still stings, I still have questions that are unanswered. So much more happens to a person after losing their parents, so many changes happen around them and to them emotionally.
My parents passed on in the same year, one after the other. I was only 7 years old and I knew they were gone but I was not ready for the change that was to come after that. I was in this or that house, learning this and unlearning that so much it became painful. When your parents are gone, you learn what family really is and for me I learnt that sharing a last name or the same blood doesn’t make for family.
I remember a relative of mine losing their mother, which was the only parent they had left and all of a sudden being an orphan was nothing to write home about. She made a mockery of the loss that my cousins and I had lived with throughout our lives,. She had a parent who had seen her through school, through her first love, her first car and she chose to be insensitive about it just because she had, ‘joined the crew.’
I realized that as human beings we do not consider what the death of parents means to the children. There is talk of strength and growth and never of getting counselling and building an environment that allows for one to heal. People throw you into the deep end because they believe that is what works best for you, but is it?
Below I list 10 things I realized change when one loses a parent.
YOUR ANXIETY INCREASES – nothing seems permanent anymore; your job, your happiness, your relationships.. This will have you feeling unsettled almost all the time. You overthink every little thing including your ordinary responsibilities. You worry more than you should and people around you will not understand where it stems from.
YOU ARE EASILY IRRITATED BY PEOPLE WHO DO NOT APPRECIATE THEIR PARENTS – I used to get so angry with people who would come to me complaining that their parents did this or said that. Like, for real? You’re mad because you have parents, are you joking!? I then had to learn that it is not them that caused the death of my parents and their complaining is not to be ungrateful. Parents can be toxic and do hurtful things and all they want is a shoulder to lean on and nothing else. Be wary of this.
YOUR LIFE CHANGES – you become your own responsibility. It does not matter that family took you in and gave you a roof, you are on your own. Keep in mind that before you they had their families and plans for them too, so they might and might not include you in them. Your time is limited, use the resources you have wisely.
You may not realize it when younger but that is it, you do not have a safe space to run to when life gets tough. You are the safe space, you are the strength you need. It will hurt and it will be hard. If you find a safe place then cherish it, be grateful for it because it is rare.
YOU LIVE WITH SADNESS – I often think about what my life would have been had my parents just lived longer, and these thoughts come around more than you can imagine. When they do the sadness is overwhelming, it will never be less than yesterday. I curse imagination on these days because I find myself painting pictures of what it could have been like. You live with this for life, a movie will trigger you, a day out at the mall will trigger this, a simple Facebook post from a graduate thanking their parents will trigger you.
YOUR EMOTIONS BECOME COMPLICATED – I learnt of this in the later stages of my life. In one moment you can be angry, sad, numb, and not know how to control any of it. It comes in one huge surge, for some it even turns into a panic attack. You need to calm yourself down, it will take time to get used to, but time to yourself to feel and cry if need be is what I would advise.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SIBLINGS CHANGES – I envied that my sister was older and got to experience our parents more than I did. She remembers more of them than I do because she obviously had more time with them and it is as if she did not realize that I was just 7 years old.
She expected me to remember what she remembered, she would lash out when I did not. So that is when the drift began for me, I was a 7-year-old who had just lost both her parents with very little memories to hold onto. All I needed was a cuddle and a story teller. I loved her but she added to my anxiety and so I closed off.
YOU ACCEPT FLAWS – my mother once beat me up and chucked me out of the house in the night because I had wet my pants. I was scared because the area we stayed in had so many snakes. I never let go of that memory, I thought she hated me and wanted me dead. It is unfortunate that most memories I have of her are not the best but I see now that she just had a weird way of loving, as do all African parents.
This may be the reason why I tolerate more than I should, I take people as they are. It has its pros and cons that is for sure. I have played the clown role way too many times in the name of, ‘that is who they are…’
YOU REALIZE THAT LOVE IS STRONG – 21 years later, nothing will ever alter the love I have for my parents. And I sometimes wonder if the world could have a love so fierce?
YOU WILL TALK TO THEM – I had an awesome relationship with my father. I wish I had gotten the chance to get to know my mother better, to understand, but unfortunately I did not. My father was my rock and so sometimes, I talk to him. I imagine he is listening to me and smiling down on me. I imagine he is reassuring me and telling me that I am going to be ok, that he is watching over me.
If you find yourself doing this, it is ok.
YOU WILL FEEL THE GRIEF IN YOUR BODY – it is normal to get sick from grief, especially for men. It could have something to do with the fact that men are expected to be strong in such times whilst women are more emotional. The effect can take a toll on the body, therefore, it is important to take care of yourself in this time.
I have written this whilst fighting tears, maybe I should go ahead and let them flow now. Before I go, find your grieving process and know that it is ok to feel. Go through the motions one day at a time but may your end goal be that of healing.
Love and light unto you. Feel free to comment with your experience below. CIAO!