This week I finished reading Midlife Orphan - Facing Life's Changes Now That your Parents Are Gone by Jane Brooks for the 46th week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.
This book is perhaps one of the better ones that I've read so far about the subject, and captures many of the feelings I have and am experiencing now that both my parents have died.
Some of the key points that resonated with me include:
- Who is ever ready for death? Maybe the best we can do is to say "it's time" when a loved one's suffering is too painful to watch. This allows us to let go of the physical presence. Letting go emotionally is much more complicated.
- Recognizing that you are now an orphan is one of the issues that is unique to the loss of the last parent.
- What really defines an orphan...is the loneliness, the sense of abandonment, and the constant longing.
- There's an aloneness like you've never felt before when your last parent dies. These are the people who cared about you beyond anything you can imagine. It's just like the way you care about your own kids. Once your parents are gone, there's nobody else who will ever be there for you like that, not even your spouse.
- We are grieving for our family of origin - the last attachment to our childhood.
- The second half of life is to refocus our life around a new set of values. In contrast to the more materialistic, extroverted values of earlier years, these are values that are spiritual in nature.
- In the face of the deadline brought to our attention by our last parent's death, we find ourselves turning outward with renewed purpose and vigor. After all, there is much to do and no time to waste.
- Ars Moriendi - a model for "the good death."
- After the last parent dies and the public mourning ends, adult orphans tend to turn inward to deal with this unique loss. We find ourselves mourning privately, reflecting on our parents and our childhood but keeping our feelings and thoughts largely to ourselves.
- We stop looking back with longing and instead begin to examine who we are now - minus parents - and where we're heading. Altered indelibly by the loss of our parents, we have grown up. And with that growth, we begin to assess our legacy, the inheritance that goes beyond money and possessions. We sift through the legacy of values, memories, and traditions.
- In our initial grief over the loss of the last parent, we don't have much energy for relationships. if the family doesn't make an effort to reach out to us, we are likely to let the relationship go.
- Midlife orphans will navigate through uncharted rivers of change until we find peace with our parents and with ourselves. As we step to the helm, this becomes our course.