It Hurts To Be an Adult Orphan

Hi – I've been gone from my blog ever since I posted for Mother's Day. There have been lots of reasons – loads of company, illness, lack of inspiration – all the usual excuses. And I wish I could promise I'll do better, but I'm not sure about that. We can only hope.

My last post was about my mother's death in 1995 on Mother's Day. On August 1, 1998, three years later, my father died, exactly three weeks after Les and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary with Dad right there with all of us and exactly one week after I had major abdominal surgery. I wrote about his sudden death previously. 

Eight weeks later I was on a book tour in Oregon and on the morning of my sixty-eighth birthday, I walked along the beach, cried, hurried back to the hotel. and wrote:

A Birthday Mourning

A birthday morning—

an ocean shore, far from home
whitecaps blend into the mist above
driftwood lies gray upon the sand
relics of places distant, days of yore

A birthday morning—

my first as an orphan
the woman who bore me
gone three years and more
the man who sired me, ashes encrypted

A birthday mourning—

for the two who gave me life
and where am I
under this threatening sky?

Who am I
and when
shall I die?

(Excerpted from The Last Violet, copyright 2002 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

Are you an adult orphan?

When did your second parent die?

Comments

Rupert Neil Bumfrey (@rupertbu) 05-08-2013, 02:36

Yes, irrespective of our age and perceived sagacity, there is a huge void.

I recall telling the congregation at my Mother’s Memorial Service that as an orphan I was up for adoption, many smiled!

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Lois Hjelmstad 05-08-2013, 15:38

Thanks, Rupert. Very clever. I wish I had thought of that! And we all need to chuckle a bit at a time like that.

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Laurie Weiss 05-08-2013, 20:15

When my father’s father died, he said he was an orphan and I didn’t understand. When my father died, I understood completely.

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Lois Hjelmstad 06-08-2013, 11:42

Thanks, Laurie. It is amazing to me how much better I understand things that my parents said now that I am old! If only I could have understood them then…

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derek 24-09-2013, 08:29

I wish I could have understood more then too so the feeling of guilt, taking them for granted are all there, please help me

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Lois Hjelmstad 24-09-2013, 14:25

Dear Derek – There are always regrets. Somehow we must let them go. It takes a while, though. You might find comfort in the book I wrote when my mother died: The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret. I think it can be found elsewhere on this page under “Books.”

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Dorene Parent 28-10-2013, 17:17

Lois – I found your site through Rick and Sharon. My eyes just about popped out when I read this post. I feel for you. I had a pretty bad run of luck as well. Simply life changing. My mother-in-law died in 2009, three weeks later my mother died at 72, then eight months later my son-in-law died at 38 when a 500 lb. pipe fell on him and left 2 brokenhearted grandchildren. Five months after this, my own father died.

When you go through this type of stress and grief, it certainly gives you a understanding on what’s really important in life. My husband and I were always very hands on grandparents, but this caused us to really step up to help and be there for our grandchildren. Not just the two grandchildren that lost their dad, but the other four grandchildren as well.

Interestingly, the four were not about to take a backseat to the other two, no matter how sad they were for their loss. It was hard to understand at the time, but it didn’t take me long to get it. So we started a journey of grandparent excellence. This is why I started a grandparent website.

Sorry for the long post, just wanted to tell you I get your pain and share with you your loss.

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