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Thread: Those who've lost both parents

  1. #1

    Those who've lost both parents

    I lost my father a few years ago, the second parent to go. Was thinking about it this morning. I now view things so differently now that there is no older generation. Time is a lot more urgent, and I consider things in terms of "how many years do I have left to do this". Part of it is hitting middle age, I'm sure, but I seem to recall not being so caught in this before (i.e. there's still time and energy left to do what I want).
    Anyone got thoughts? Almost all my friends still have at least one parent, so they have a hard time relating.

  2. #2
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    I lost both parents and circumstances of how I found out about my mom were sad. I won't go into all of this here.
    I guess your feelings are a mixed bag (whose aren't!) and in a way, realizing the finality of our existence can be a blessing of sorts since no one ever really knows when their last days are to be.

    My parents were older so I always felt I would lose them in my 20s, but dad died 3 months shy of 88, so I was well into my 40s.

    I did not have a great childhood and once I left home, life really began for me. Losing them was sad (the finality of it all and as you say, the mortality of someone we knew well) but in terms of the impact it had on my personal life...not much effect.

    My gut feel is that the closeness one has with their parents as children can add to specific feelings we have when they are gone.
    I think my cancer dx hit me more on the finality and tying up loose ends than my parents' death.

    I have learned to try and make the best of what ever emotions I am feeling. Buddhists say that even sorrow and anger should be felt and acknowledged, and not, as many people are told, to "cheer up" and forge ahead. We feel what we feel and should accept it. Of course if life becomes difficult/impossible to go on with some emotions, seeking help is also valid and encouraged.

    It sounds like you were lucky to have parents you loved and had a good relationship with. How lucky you were.

    Best to you.
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

  3. #3
    I do think that losing both parents does alter things (to some extent or other) for most people as there is no longer another generation between yourself and death.

    It's a good and bad thing - obviously most people with normal relationships with their parents mourn them and miss them no matter how old they get or how old their parents were when they died.

    I'm at an age when my peers parents are all dead for the most part. I am not at all patient with some of the normal kvetching adults do about their still living parents as I silently think that I would love to have a conversation with my mother even thought it would include unasked for advice or comments. I'm not talking about truly dysfunctional parental relationships but just the kind of shticks or minor complaints that people have.

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    Both parents are gone, as might be expected at my age of 67. Looking at genetics there is a good chance I'll stick around for another 20 years or more. So I look back and think about what I've done with my life between 1992 and now. Puts things in perspective.

    What shakes me up is seeing friends my age get very ill & feeble or pass away.
    Last edited by swedish cook; 05-27-2012 at 02:24 PM.
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  5. #5
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    My father died when I was 22 and my mother when I was 43 (brother when I was 32 and sister when I was 42) and I no longer know anyone who is related to me; I think the biggest impact on me is in taking advantage of small opportunities over bigger "obligations"; enjoying what is around me and treating people well. No looming mortality issues, though. Maybe because death was not taboo in our household or maybe because I never had a big list of "to-do"s

    I was close to both of my parents and miss them, esp my father since it's 25 years he's been gone and I was always "his" kid. I always remember when he was dying, I said, "I feel like I'm supposed to say something profound." and his response was, "You and I have always been friends; we have no fences to mend."
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

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    What I am about to say my sound silly to most of you. but the thought that hit me the day after mom died, was now I am an orphan, and I truly cannot go back home again. I didn't realize the impact that my mom had on my life....and always thought that when people said "I picked up the phone to call her" was going a bit overboard.

    But here I was 2 days later wanting to talk to someone, anyone about the wedding. My thought was I'll call mom. It was such an incredibly sad feeling. Dad died 22 years ago and it took me quite awhile to get over losing him, so I know it will be the same for my mom.....It sure does change things when you know that they are both gone. I was so blessed to be 61 when I went through this. As bad as it hurts for me, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for someone young.

    May you all be blessed with your memories on this Memorial Day.
    Joyce
    You may have had a lot of unfair things happen, but when you look back over your life, remember something good that has happened for you. Replay the good memories. Joel Osteen

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canice View Post
    I was close to both of my parents and miss them, esp my father since it's 25 years he's been gone and I was always "his" kid. I always remember when he was dying, I said, "I feel like I'm supposed to say something profound." and his response was, "You and I have always been friends; we have no fences to mend."
    This really hit home with me, as I was "Daddy's girl:" the youngest child and the only girl! I was 30 and pregnant with my first child when he died, and it's still the surest way to bring tears to my eyes, thinking about it. I still miss him.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmarie View Post
    What I am about to say my sound silly to most of you. but the thought that hit me the day after mom died, was now I am an orphan, and I truly cannot go back home again.
    I had that same thought, Joyce, but it hit me harder when DMIL died, than when my mother died. Me, a 66-year-old orphan!

    I hear/read other complaints about older relatives, and I can relate to some, but with us now being the older generation, and being the 'seniors,' I do think about dying and what I should have done, but I'm trying to do now the things I should have done all along -- as Canice said, enjoying what's around me, and treating people well. That's what DH and I used to joke about -- our parents trying to get into heaven, so they had mellowed. But now, we're doing it! And it feels good!

    It's hard to be the grown-up, isn't it?
    Kay
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    I was in my mid 30s when my dad died. Mid 50s when my mom passed. It didn't really hit me the first year after mom died, but the past 2 years have made me very aware that I'm on the flip side of life. I think that may be compounded by the fact that we never had kids. I try not to dwell on it, but the realization that life is quickly changing is always present.

    I'm grateful to have a good relationship with my two siblings and I'm now staying in touch with a couple cousins ... all long distance ... but email and phones bring us much closer. I've learned some things about my parents and their families that I never knew when they were alive. So many questions that will now never be answered.

  9. #9
    It's not odd to feel that one is an "adult orphan". If you google the term there are articles and books for and by people going through the experience.

    Like any human experience, there are commonalities and differences just as there are for mourning.

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    When both of your parents are gone there is no one left to remember your childhood. Siblings help, but it's not the same. I think that's partly what people are grieving - the loss of all those memories.

    One reason why we did end up having children was that both of our mothers were sick during the early years of our marriage, and we decided that we wanted something to be attached to that went forward and not just backward.
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    I had an extremely bad, but unfortunately common, childhood about which I will not go into details here. My mother died at 72, when I was 33 (something those contemplating later-in-life pregnancies should perhaps think about). I grieved for the normal parent-child relationship we never had because I was her caretaker and confidante from early childhood but I did learn to be strong and independent which has served me well through the years. And now, all these years later, I finally understand she did the best she could under challenging circumstances and it hurts that I can't tell her. This experience is probably why I do wear my heart on my sleeve now because you never know when it will be too late to say "I love you" to someone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RiverFarm View Post
    When both of your parents are gone there is no one left to remember your childhood. Siblings help, but it's not the same. I think that's partly what people are grieving - the loss of all those memories.
    Every now and then I'll read something or see someone and a small instinct is that I can't wait to tell my sister. There's literally only one other person who knew my family; I call him my honorary brother because he was my brother's best friend from the time they were around 4. Odd thing is that Kevin moved to England when he was 7 and they managed to remain life-long friends. Because Kevin's parents were American and he had loads of family in San Francisco, he'd come back and live with us for months at a time or live elsewhere in SF and be with us. We fell out of touch for many years and he'd moved to Australia from London. He came back to SF for a couple of years, leaving just last summer to return to Australia, and he would have insights or memories about my family that were literally like only a brother could have. There was something tremendously warming in hearing him say, "I remember when Aunt Rita was visiting and...." - golly, my aunt didn't come from back east very many times, but he totally got her.
    So yea, I think the shared memories thing is huge.

    (And sorry to digress, FF

    ETA: I realize you were saying something different, RiverFarm, that sibling memories aren't the same as parental ones, but I guess it depends. My mother always had a terrible memory, even before she got old, so there was no point in saying, "Do you remember...?" Also, she never wanted children, so it's not like she would have had all these lovely memories of motherhood.
    Last edited by Canice; 05-27-2012 at 06:49 PM.
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

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    I don't know if the feelings you have about running out of time are related to the loss of your parents or just part of aging, as you said. But I know that I have those same feelings. I feel young and vibrant in many ways, but am painfully aware that I'm not young anymore, and sort of feel like my life is over and now I have a new life--one where I have to accept I don't have a lot of future left, where I'm not attractive anymore and my libido is not what it was, and where I have to think about Wills and end of life issues. What will I do if DH predeceases me? I feel a sadness over the loss of my youth. When I hear a song that I loved when I was in my 20s or 30s, I get a little emotional rush and pleasure, and for a moment I am that young woman. Then I realize that girl is gone and it makes me a little sad.

    At the same time I'm reminded of a friend who is quite a bit older than I, and when he hit mid-60's he decided he was an old man and started living and acting like one. I was shocked! I think maybe his parents died near that age and so he felt like his days were now numbered. Or maybe he was mourning the loss of his youth as I am. In any event, when he reached his early 70's it seemed like he figured out his life wasn't over afterall and he'd better get busy living. So he bought a sailboat and is back to his vibrant self in many ways.

    So when I feel that sadness I think of him, and I think I don't want to waste a single moment of this glorious life! With each passing year it seems like I get even more pleasure in the beauty arround me--the flowers and trees, sunrises and wildlife. I am so touched by the kindness of others and my friendships have deeper meaning and pleasure for me, as well as the love I share with my family and DH.

    It has always been fascinating to me how DH acted like such a child when he was with his parents, right up until the both passed in recent years. I guess after losing his parents, that part of him can't come out and play anymore! He has said repeatedly that something feels wrong about the way he feels about losing his Mom (she was the last to go), and that he is still mourning and doesn't understand why. He feels like maybe he didn't mourn properly at the time of her death. But maybe a part of what he's feeling is what we're talking about.. the loss of his youth as well.

    Interesting subject and food for thought.


    Editing to say I have lost both parents--my Mom when I was 7 and my Dad about 12 years ago.

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    Julie, your post made me teary especially when you said your mom died when you were seven. My dad died nearly 43 years ago when I was nearly 21, married, and 7 months pregnant with DD1. My mom died 15 years ago. When she died, I told a teacher friend that I was the old person now meaning that that generation was gone. Her mom died recently and she reminded me of what I said 15 years ago. I have no sibs; my brother drowned 46 years ago when he was nearly 17. I feel like an orphan as JMaire said. I am sniffling and tearing now. DH has no family either;his brother, Mom and Dad are all gone.

    As teary as I am, thank you for starting this thread.

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    This is a teary topic! I feel the loss of several of the older generation... but that's all the more reason to enjoy those still with us, grab every moment of life, and tell the people you care about that you love them! I'm not saying to "get over it." Far from it! But like all lessons in life, it's what you do going forward with what you've learned that counts!
    Kay
    I'm a WYSIWYG person -- no subterfuge here!

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    Julie, your first paragraph really struck a chord. I'm having issues right now getting past some of that sadness. Some days it's a real challenge trying to find something that brings pleasure.

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    Only our nuclear family of four immigrated to the US. Our parents came for visits and we went back often (still do to see other relatives). But some of the immediate contact suffered.

    However, I am very blessed, because I have a wonderful role model in my dearly beloved FIL. We became much closer after my own parents had passed away. He reached the age of 93 and never lost his sense of humor. Life had brought him hardships and adventures and he lived every day to the fullest. Even after his legs gave up. As one of his many grandchildren said at the funeral, "It was a privilege to have known him". Getting older I often think of my FIL, hear his voice and see the twinkle in his eye. It makes a big difference
    Last edited by swedish cook; 05-28-2012 at 02:30 PM.
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    Did you come to the US at 47, SC??

    My father was the (only) child of immigrants, and I've never met anyone who was related to him, which always made me a little sad.
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canice View Post
    Did you come to the US at 47, SC??

    My father was the (only) child of immigrants, and I've never met anyone who was related to him, which always made me a little sad.
    I was 40 when we moved here permanently (1985). Had spent a few years in Colorado in the early 70's.

    Canice, I understand completely.

    When your father's parent's immigrated that probably meant never seeing their own father and mother again. It's hard to imagine today with phone and Internet connection to stay in touch. Still, when living in Colorado we wrote letters and DH sent telegrams to announce the birth of DD1.
    We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.
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  20. #20
    I just lost my mother in February. It was very sudden and unexpected, but in the long run, I don't think that makes a difference in terms of how I feel. It was probably just easier for her (and us i.e. my brothers and I. . . since we did not have to watch her suffer or "dwindle" long). My dad passed exactly 5 years prior to my mom (almost to the day!).

    Mainly, I feel very empty now as well as sad/lonely. I live a bit of a distance from any of my siblings so have no immediate family nearby. I don't talk much with my siblings either. However, I was close to my mom especially being the only girl in the family and we used to talk on the phone regularly. When she did not check in once a week or more, I'd always worry. And every weekend, I'd check in with her. I miss being able to talk to her about anything and everything. . . especially right now as my family has had a very stressful year (DH lost his job). There are other people to talk to about these things, but it is just not the same as when you are talking to your mom. With mom you could let it "all hang out" so to speak.

    Her death seems very surreal . . .like she can't be gone or is she really gone or I can't believe she is gone. . . and I am not sure if that ever goes away. All I know is that she left a big impact on many people and will be missed.

    Mom, I hope your dancing with Dad now. I love you.

    Karen

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    I was reading these threads after posting and get such a warm feeling that a family truly can be that warm and that loving that one is so deeply missed. Moving.

    I am an immigrant (came to the US when I was 4-1/2) and so do not know my mother's side of the family. My dad's parents died when he was 9 and never knew the reason...a family of 13 kids and with the hitler thing going on, not sure how many were left, if any He did not speak much about it; who can blame him.

    My twin (fraternal) is ...well....again, it amazes me the stories here. A good lesson here in how we treat others as we go along in life and how many we touch along the way, family or not.

    Thanks for starting this thread
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

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    I wasn't going to reply, since my husband's mother is still living. However, I have found this thread so compelling, I've changed my mind.

    My folks were older parents, at least for their generation, so I never expected to have them as I grew older myself. My father died at 82 when I was 43 and my mother at 94 when I was 60. They both had long and productive lives, so I have no regrets the way my mother did for her own father who died at 50 when she was 20. I still think of them often. Just this week, I was wondering what my father, who was a bridge engineer, would say about some concerns regarding the new span for the Bay Bridge. This past weekend, my daughter took her young family to visit my MIL, and I am sorry that my own mother did not have that experience.

    In answer to your question, I am aware that DH and I, who both turn 67 this year, are in the latter part of our lives, and ought to do what is important to us while we have the opportunity and are in good health. For us, I think it has to do more with arithmetic than parents.

    I can understand having a different perspective than that of many of your friends. When I was in my early 30s, my parents were clearly approaching old age. I found that, at least on this topic, I had more in common with friends who were older than I than those around my own age.

    One thing which I think is interesting is the change in perception of old age over the past 100 years. I am currently reading a book from my mother's collection, a Reader's Digest anthology of essays published in 1946 including articles published in the 20s, 30s and early 40s. A world without computers and the toys they inhabit does not surprise me, for that is the world I grew up in. What did surprise me was life expectancy and the impact it had on the society.

    For example, there was an article from 1935 on people who had lived past 90. (The author concluded that inheritance was the major factor.) I quote -- "Life insurance statistics reveal that out of each hundred persons born in the United States over a third are still alive at 72. A decade later, about 12 of the original hundred are still living. Thereafter, the odds against further longevity rise more rapidly. Only one or two of a hundred starters in life's race ever pass the 92 milepost." Goodness. Even if one takes into account a higher death rate for children, those figures are very different than today.

    There was another essay from 1937 by a woman who, as a result of declining health and finances, needed to move in with her daughter. She was successful in fitting into the new household and adopting activities that she enjoyed. I had assumed that perhaps she had perhaps moved in during her late 70s and was writing in her 80s. I was wrong. She had been widowed at 58, moved in with her daughter at 65 and wrote the article at 73.

    DH and I are fortunate that we can wake every day grateful for the life we have.

    Kay

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    Having just lost my mother, I would just like to add that this thread has been especially touching to me. I so enjoy threads where the responses come straight from the heart.

    Thank you to the OP and all of the posters.
    You may have had a lot of unfair things happen, but when you look back over your life, remember something good that has happened for you. Replay the good memories. Joel Osteen

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    Quote Originally Posted by RiverFarm View Post
    When both of your parents are gone there is no one left to remember your childhood. Siblings help, but it's not the same. I think that's partly what people are grieving - the loss of all those memories.
    The loss of the memories is huge. My dad passed when I was 31 at 54, my mom two years later at 55, and then three years after this my only sibling passed at 35. All three were fairly sudden. I am definitely forever changed. Even after all these years (I turn 49 this week) I still actively miss them on a daily basis. It doesn't hurt like it used to but there is a void.

    All I can say is love the heck out of your family and friends while you have them in your life. Never be afraid to say I love you.
    A well rounded person is perfectly pointless. - Carrie

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canice View Post
    Did you come to the US at 47, SC??

    My father was the (only) child of immigrants, and I've never met anyone who was related to him, which always made me a little sad.
    My dad came to this country, with his parents, from Brazil (where Dad was born) at age 4. His parents had gone to Brazil from Germany. There were a few relatives in the US (Dad's sister), and many more in Brazil, whom I have never met. I was fortunate that Dad's dad lived with us for a while, so I could hear some of the stories of the "old country" which was Germany -- never heard many stories of Brazil at all!

    Kay -- we have a saying around here, where most of us are over 50... "Old age is always at least 20 years older than we are!" When you live in an area populated by seniors, you'd think that there were always funerals, and people would be down. Not so! We have our share of funerals, for sure, but my community is based on our shared church, so while funerals are sad for those left behind, we are happy for our friends to have gone where they believed they will go.

    You can't live your life worrying about the end of it -- that's no life at all.
    Kay
    I'm a WYSIWYG person -- no subterfuge here!

  26. #26
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    My father died 12 years ago when I was 37, and mom died six years ago; now I am 49. Earlier this month, I felt moved to send some Mother's Day cards, something that had made me feel nothing but sadness over the last six years. But I realized that there were a number of women in my life, who, although not my mother, were my "other" mothers.

    I ended up sending 10 cards, ranging from my 99-year old grandmother, to my 90 year old godmother, to the mothers of several of my girlfriends, some of my mom's friends, and one woman who became my friend due to this bb. (thanks JulieM!)

    So, although my immediate older generation is gone, I have tried to retain some of that connection through these other women It took me six years to figure it out, but I am lucky to have them!

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