Over the past few weeks, an Odyssey article circulated the internet called "What You Learn After Losing A Parent At A Young Age," and if you haven’t checked it out, I highly suggest giving it a read. The article acknowledges lessons that the loss of a parent has taught young people all over the world. What it doesn’t talk about, though, is how that loss impacts your everyday life. Losing a parent as a young adult is a tragic event that I wouldn’t even wish upon my worst enemy and that loss has changed my life in ways that I never expected.
An 18-year-old will cope with loss much different than a 25-year-old or a 30-year-old. Eighteen-year-olds might turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. They might push away everyone who has been there for them. They might throw themselves into projects or work to try to distract from their reality. Nobody talks about what happens to the young people after the first month or two without their parent. Nobody asks the 18-year-old what it was like to walk across the stage at graduation without hearing your mom screaming, “That’s my girl” from the stands.
College freshmen are moving into dorms and they’d give up anything to have that annoying parent begging to put their clothes away for them. They’re participating in a diversity exercise during orientation and their orientation leader says “Stand if you have lost one or both of your parents.” and they find that they are the only one in their orientation group who has dealt with this kind of loss. They might be having boy troubles and automatically dial mom’s number to vent and ask for advice before reality hits.
Your life is different in ways you didn’t even notice. It’s singing “Drink A Beer” at the top of your lungs at a Luke Bryan show and hoping your best friend doesn’t see your tears. It’s binge watching "Grey’s Anatomy" in your room on a Friday and bawling because a mom just died of heart disease on the show. It’s listening to your parent’s favorite song when you’re having a bad day or unintentionally reaching for their favorite ice cream flavor because at some point it became your favorite, too. It's being afraid to be sad because it's been a year since they passed and you should be over it by now. It’s wearing her favorite ring every day or hanging his favorite hat from your rear view mirror, just because. It’s seeing a butterfly fly by and wondering if they’re still with you. It’s sitting at Thanksgiving dinner with only half your family because no one seems to be able to get along since they passed. It’s baking cookies on her birthday because she would’ve asked you to. It’s getting a tattoo in their memory.
It’s the little things in life that change in big ways. It’s the things that nobody realizes that affect you the most. Losing a parent is more than just losing a family member. It’s losing a part of you, but also gaining a part of them.