Our Story Begins:
Losing a Parent
Nothing makes us face the fact that we’re essentially dying from the moment we take our first breath like losing one of those people who gave us life. Most people, I suppose, only have to face this after they’ve lived a large portion of their lives already. The thought of facing your own mortality doesn’t come to mind until you see the people you thought were invincible fall.
Unfortunately, this is a lesson that my four children have had to face far too early.
I hadn’t faced this terrible thought for some time, not since the first year or so after my wife passed away in 2011. Then this week I saw an article published over the summer in the LA Times. In it they say researchers have found that losing a parent during childhood may increase the risk of early death. I held off reading this for a long time. I wasn’t one to want to face these issues unless I had to do it.
There’s a song from the band Rush that speaks fairly succinctly to the issue. (I know, it’s a power trio from Canada…still fits!)
“When we are young…wandering the face of the earth…wondering what our dreams might be worth…learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time.”
None of us really thinks we’re immortal, but we like to look at our parents like that’s not true. They are the bedrock of our moral, physical and mental foundation. When we fall they are there below us, hands out, catching before we hit the ground.
The study in the LA Times article follows the mortality rates of millions of people. They found what the headline says…a lot of them die on the exact same day as their parents. Those who lost their mother were 55% more likely to die prematurely. Those losing a father 50%.
The one thing that they gloss over and give as a very short and brief caveat stating that young people losing a parent very well could have other problems with their physical and mental health. As well as their social well-being.
I know this all too well . . . my oldest daughter had a meltdown the weekend I had a date with a woman I know. (Date, by the way, is a stretch . . . it was a date for a work event) My middle daughter was lost and adrift for a long time. One of my sons had therapy for the last three years . . . only in the last month has he moved past needing weekly therapy.
Still . . . I never realized how much of an impact it was overall until I took stock after reading this article.
It’s also thanks to realizing the affect this loss could have on my kids’ mortality that I realized the impact parents really have on their kids. It would be really easy to say “you can deal with it” and tell my kids to fend for themselves. I knew people growing up who lost a parent and they were almost on their own . . . because the remaining spouse was suffering from intense grief.
My own personal thought was that I saw how much my kids needed someone to show them we could still live. Bear in mind I was barely understanding my own grief at times. It wasn’t brilliant. There were days things went so wrong I shouted until I lost my voice.
The message I’m trying to give my kids is that life continues, and it doesn’t mean it’s a bad life. We have it pretty good, I believe, and I want them to see it. I want them to live long, productive, happy lives.
Most of all . . . I don’t want them to know they’re only immortal for a limited time.
What about you? Do you realize the impression you give to your kids?