To lose a parent is like losing half of you. Fortunately for most, this grieving process doesn’t happen until they’re much older and have had a chance to truly understand and get to know the two people who brought them into this crazy place we call earth. There is however that small percentage of people who were not so fortunate. The people who lose a parent at a young age. Maybe you’re one of this small percentage. Here are ten things you learn when you or someone close to you has lost a parent at a young age.
1. All eyes on you. People are constantly referring you to counselors and different kinds of group therapy sessions. You’re almost expected to fall into depression, or lead an unhealthy lifestyle. This can be a blessing as it is a curse, because although it’s wonderful to have support from your loved ones, sometimes you just want to be treated like a normal person.
2. Siblings instantly become closer. If you have brothers and sisters, your bond gets stronger after you lose a parent. They know your suffering. They feel your pain. And although you’re still young enough to hate each other, you can’t help but lean on each other. And as you grow older, you get stronger together. It’s a fascinating battle to fight. My sister and I like to talk about our mom a lot. Our brother doesn’t talk about it so much, but he keeps a picture of her outside his bedroom. I know he misses her.
3. Best friends at the time stay best friends forever. There’s no doubt that being a teenager and losing a parent is the biggest challenge a young adult can face. But if you add being an only child, that can be much harder. You’re pretty much forced to rely on friendships. But those friendships are oh so sweet. Whether it’s two friends or 200. When my mom passed away I held on to my two best friends as tight as I possibly could. That was 8 years ago. I still try to get together with them when we can. One travels the country on her Harley, the other thrives off of helping people live a healthy lifestyle. I’m not sure if they understand how much they helped me. And I don’t know if they ever will, but they love me very much. And I love them.
4. You don’t fully understand yourself and sometimes you don’t know why you do the things you do. The problem with losing a parent at a young age is that you’re still growing up. You’re still learning about yourself. Watching your parents sometimes gives you some insight about who you are and where you come from. Even though some may say they are definitely not like their parents, how would one truly know that if they lose a parent at a young age? I struggle with the fact that I won’t be able to use my mom as an example for everyday struggles that will come. Have you ever heard the phrase, If you want to know what a girl is going to be like when she gets older, just look at her mother? Well, I don’t think that one will apply to my sister and I.
5. Your relationship with your Grandparents can get stronger. We all love our Grandparents. They are beyond special. But there’s something about knowing that you’ve still got a set of parents or even just one additional parent there to lean on when you’re a young adult who has lost a parent. You still have that example in your life. When my brother danced with my grandma at his wedding, it was an emotional feeling many of us shared, I’m sure.
6. Bring on the awkwardness. Although this seems petty, there’s a sort of awkwardness that can come with sharing about your past. We tend to try to avoid talking about it for fear of being a “downer” or making things awkward–especially when it comes to dating. And many teens and young adults who lost their parents young are barely starting to scratch the surface of dating. When you’re getting to know someone, you eventually want to know about where they came from. Who they came from. When you’re someone who’s lost a parent and it’s time to share this unavoidable detail, this can be a difficult and sometimes awkward situation as you’ve come to learn that not a lot of people your age understand what you’re going through. And they know that. If it’s not handled with care, it can really bring down a conversation. So what can you say to someone who has lost their parent? Nothing. Just be there for them and listen. Maybe say something like, “I’m always here for you,” or “You must have learned a lot through this,” because the truth is, we have. And the truth is, this topic is simply unavoidable.
7. When someone relates you to your late parent, it feels a little more special. When someone from your family sees you doing something like your late parent, it’s not uncommon to shed some tears together. Kids are like their parents. Thats a no brainer. But when one parent is no longer with you, it’s a bitter sweet moment when you see that that person is living on through their children. It brings so much joy, yet so much grief. It’s almost like for a split second, they’re with you again. When someone tells me I look like my mom or act like her, it makes me happy. My grandma told me that I talk like her. That was pretty cool too. My sister is growing up to be quite a beauty. She’s looking more and more like my mom. It’s hard sometimes. I can’t imagine how my dad feels.
8. The unanswered question. “What would they do if they were here to see this?” That’s probably what I ask myself everyday. Through the drama, the trials, the triumphs, the tragedies. What would they, could they think? Some things have happened in my life where I think my mom would just gasp and have no words. Other times, I don’t even want to imagine what she would do to me if she were here. You have to remember, we’re still growing. Which means we’re still screwing up. That’s the easy part though. The hard part is when you succeed. You want to be happy. You want to feel good inside. And for the most part you do. But you can’t help but have that burning question that you’ll never really find the answer to. “What if they were here to experience this with me?” The answer is, they are. Unfortunately for most, that answer is just not good enough.
9. You are different. It doesn’t get anymore clearer than that. You. Are. Different. And that’s okay. You’re probably the only person out of your friends, your class, on your team, at work, who has lost a parent so young. You’re going to grow up differently. People will look at you and think you’re different and they won’t really be able to explain why. You’re going to have a different perspective on life. Most importantly, materialistic things won’t be the forefront. You will work hard, that’s for sure, but you’ll value relationships and living in the moment a little more, because you understand loss. And that can be a huge blessing. When you lose a parent so young, you’re forced to grow up and unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop for you. No matter how old you are.
10. We are defined by our strength. There’s no rule book on how to grieve, especially when you’re a kid who has lost a parent. Most people just pray you don’t spiral down a path of destruction. But the truth is, no child deserves to lose a parent so young and to carry on with strength and love is a challenge that most of us can say will last forever. But our strength from that tragedy ultimately makes us who we are, for because we have had to deal with this kind of pain at such a young age, we now know how strong we actually are. This prepares us for life’s next battle, which is ultimately inevitable.