When you lose both parents

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Yesterday I broke down.

I was trying to catch a little nap, but when I closed my eyes I started thinking about my childhood. I remembered special times in the house that I grew up in, and I felt the love that surrounded me.   Taking myself back to those times used to be comforting, and in some ways it still is, but knowing I will never have those times again is painful.  Mom died suddenly almost five years ago, and Dad passed away unexpectedly just two months ago.  I find myself not only grieving for my father, but for mom and dad together. It is hard to explain.

I felt a knot in my stomach as it really hit me that I no longer have parents.  There is a certain kind of love that only parents can give – they love like no other, and love with all of their hearts.   I was reminiscing about how supportive my parents were…even in situations where they could have chosen to never speak to me again.

When I was 24-years old and still living at home, I got pregnant. I was petrified to tell them the news, so I asked my best friend to please tell them.   She obliged and when I walked into the kitchen later that day, what I heard from my mom and dad was, “So, we are going to be grandparents!”.  Though not happy about the whole situation, they were there for me throughout the whole pregnancy and beyond.

When you lose both parents, it hurts.  It is a pain like no other.  You want to call them, you want to see them.  You want to walk into their house and sit down and talk.  Or laugh.  Or just hug them.

Mom

My mother was a southern belle (from Mississippi), who could charm the pants off of anyone.  She was funny, caring and just a genuinely nice person.  Her smile was infectious, and her eyes warm.  Everyone loved her baking, and the first thing they would do when coming into our home was head for the cookie jar.  There was always something fresh awaiting them.  Even the UPS guy loved coming to our house, as the smell of cookies wafted out the front door when she opened it.  Of course, she would invite him in for a quick cookie or two.

I have so many fond memories of mom.   One of my favorite memories is the trip to Europe that she and I took when I was 18.  Dad sent us both as my graduation gift.  Mom and I spent 23 days touring the beautiful countryside, having wine with the locals, and becoming even closer.   Sometimes when I close my eyes, it all comes back so vividly.  Another favorite memory is when I was pregnant, and off work for maternity leave.  Each afternoon mom and I would sit down at the kitchen table for a game of Upwords.  We talked and laughed as we played. They were special times.

Her name was Joy…and a joy she was.

Dad

My father was  from Wisconsin. He was a hard-working man who would do anything for his family.   He was respected and loved by all.  My brother’s friends (most of whom stood about 6’1) used to call him “Big Don” (even though Dad was only about 5’6).   He was a gentle, soft-spoken man, but extremely intelligent and witty. I remember his amazing laugh – it never failed to warm my heart, and one couldn’t help but laugh along with him.   Dad worked hard, and time with him was sometimes limited when I was a child.   There was nothing better than getting one-on-one time with him – even if it meant taking a trip to the dump. How excited I would be when he invited me along.  He used to laugh hysterically as I plugged my nose due to the unpleasant smell.  It didn’t matter to me what we did, I was with my dad.

In his later years (and up until his death), dad had several health issues which would have made any other person give up.  He was on dialysis three days a week, had his leg amputated below his knee, several surgeries and hospital stays.  He never complained and he never gave up.  Dad remained independent til the end – driving his own car, going grocery shopping, etc.  He didn’t want to “bother” anyone to do these things for him.  My father was my hero.

One of my favorite memories is when my son was born (while I was still living at home).  My bedroom was downstairs and  I remember the lonely feeling in the middle of the night while feeding my son.  Being a young, first-time mom was overwhelming and exhausting, to say the least.  But dad came to my rescue.  I remember sitting feeding my son in the darkness of the night, and then I would see a light upstairs.  I heard dad’s bedroom door open and he gently padded downstairs.  He would tell me to go back to bed and he would feed the baby.  Dad and my son would cuddle up in the recliner, and after my son was fast asleep, dad would put him down in his crib.  Dad and my son were best buddies – they did everything together. My father was so good with all kids, and they always loved him.

My parents.  I see their faces, I hear their laughter.  They surround me, yet I can’t touch them.  When you lose both parents, you lose a little bit of yourself.

Yesterday I broke down.

It helps me to have signs from my parents…if you’d like to learn more about this, please read my Signs from Departed Loved ones post.

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About Author

Jennifer Regan is the owner/editor-in-chief of Eighty MPH Mom, a family-friendly blog. She is active in Brand Ambassadorships and campaigns, and is active in social media, helping brands promote!

37 Comments

  1. I am so sad for you, Jennifer. But I feel very blessed to have read about both of your parents. They really do sound like amazing people. The vision you shared of your mother is exactly the kind of mother I aspire to be. These memories may hurt right now, with everything being brought up again so fresh, and with both of their passings being unexpected… But I know that one day you will be able to balance the sorrow with the love, happiness and joy you’ve described. Especially the memories of your young son with your dad. That is something that is so incredibly special.
    Really. Thanks for sharing it. I needed it.

  2. Oh I’m crying, Jen, I know how hard it is to lose a parent, but fear the day I have to say goodbye to my mom as well. I know this has been hard on you and I wish I could take half of your pain on myself just to ease yours. I love you and I hope the pain of losing your parents lessens, a tiny bit, each day.

  3. I remember your parents, Jennifer, and I remember how strong your love was for them and theirs for you. I remember when you were pregnant and living at home, and the wonderful things you would say about your mom and dad. It’s wonderful to have such loving and kind parents. I only met them once, but the depiction of them you give here is like how I remember them. Especially your mom and her cookies!

    You were very lucky to have such wonderful parents. Don’t think of them as being gone from you. They will be with you always.

  4. Hi Jen…I am so sorry. I felt the pain and “hollowness” in your post….it made me cry. My mom is very sick…and quite frankly I wonder how to get through each day. The thought of living life without my mom is making me literally sick.

    I wish I could give you a big hug right now…I am so very sorry. Please know I will say a prayer for you.

    • Thank you Katie, and I am so, so sorry about your mom. I know you feel helpless right now too, and I’m here if you need to talk. I wish I could give you a big hug too, and I will also say a prayer for you and your mom…

  5. Oh honey, you are making me cry at my desk – at WORK! I’m so sorry for you and can’t imagine going through that. I need to call my mom and dad on my way home. Time goes by too quickly as we rush and rush through work, school, life. I hope you start to slowly cope and heal (if that’s possible). I’m very fortunate not to have lost anyone close to me yet so I have no words of advice. Go snuggle with your fur babies, maybe?

    • I’m sorry for making you cry! You are right – we do rush through life…and oh how I wish I could take back the times that I said, “I can’t right now…I’m too busy”. I would drop everything given the chance again. I try to remind myself of that for those that are still here – when it matters.

      I love to snuggle with my fur babies, and they give good hugs 🙂

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment …

  6. jennifer i know what you are feeling. it has been over 20 years since i lost both of my parents and i still find myself somedays picking up the phone to call my mom. i am now a grandmother and ohhh she would of loved to have met her great grandson…he is my heart……she was a wonderful woman and i miss her so! cherish those memories and share them with your children as well! and know you were loved and a good daughter! big hugs!
    polly~.

    • I don’t think the urge to pick up the phone ever ends! It’s the little things that sometimes stop me in my tracks. I cried at the store today when I saw something that dad LOVED. Something completely out of the blue. I am so thankful that my parents knew both of my kids, and I’m so sorry your mom didn’t get to know your son. That is so hard. He sounds like a special guy.

      Thank you so much for your comment…and hugs to you.

  7. I am so sorry for your losses! You are blessed to have had such wonderful parents who loved you so much! I am so very thankful for my parents. We were separated from my dad for about a year and a half and it was a time filled with tears and pain. We are so, so happy to have him back with us since last June!!

  8. I really enjoyed reading about your memories of your mom and dad. I felt like I knew them.

    This really resonated with me, because I lost my Mom suddenly in 2006 and then last year Dad died after a short battle with cancer.

    Now it feels like the only two people in the world who love me unconditionally are gone. It feels like being an orphan at 41. Now I have to be the grown up all the time.

    At least we have these wonderful memories to give us solace at times when we just want to break down.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories of your parents with us.

    • I am so sorry to hear about your parents – your story does sound a lot like mine…painful. My mom died in 2006. You have worded it perfectly, I feel like an orphan too, and I really miss that unconditional love. We do have these wonderful memories, and thank you for commenting.

  9. Oh Jennifer!
    This makes me cry and smile at the same time, reading the memories. I’m so sorry you’ve lost your parents. I do believe you’ll meet again and always they’ll be with you in spirit.

    I wish I could have such memories with my parents.

    *HUGS* They are precious.

  10. Big hugs mama! I am still sad when I think of my great grandparents and wish that they could see the awesome life that Matt and I have made. They do see us though and we will all meet with our loved ones again someday.

  11. Lovely word portrait of your folks. You never stop missing them. My father died in 1976 and my mother in 1981 and I’d love to see them again.

  12. I lost my Dad when I was very young and have helped my mom through 2 battles with cancer,and the loss of her mother and grandmother and my dad literally behind each other every 3 months that year. So much compounded loss took the wind of out her sails for awhile, but my mom has taught me tons about courage, strength and faith, and I know your parents were right near you when you wrote this post sending the loving memories to you that you chose to share with us. I hope your mom sends you a butterfly to say Hi today! 🙂

    ˙·٠•●♥ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ♥●•●•

    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

  13. I am so truly, truly sorry. My ex has said that he feels like he’s an orphan now, so I see where you’re coming from with this. I still have my mom, and I’m so scared for the day I’ll be in your shoes. Big hugs, sweet friend. You deserve a good cry now and then, because it sucks.

  14. ((((HUGS))) I lost my father when I was 26 and I remember thinking I was much too young to be without a dad. I still miss him, even now, 23 years later. I still have so many vivid memories so be comforted by that. They’ll both always be with you.

    Connie

    • Connie, that is so young to lose a parent…but it’s wonderful that you have so many memories still. I guess I should count my blessings that I had him as long as I did. Thank you so much for your comment (hugs) back!

  15. I’m so sorry for your losses. I, too, have lost both of my parents, so I can definitely relate. Because of that, I try to enjoy each and every day with my children and grandchildren so they can form long lasting memories with me and my husband.

  16. Sorry that I am so behind on reading blogs, but I am trying to catch up.
    I think this is such a beautiful post. I am so happy that you were blessed with such loving parents and have such wonderful memories of them. You are so lucky that they have been supportive of you your whole life, and I can see that same parenting style in you. Your children are so lucky to have you to guide them to adulthood.
    This touched me deeply today as tomorrow would have been my FIL’s 99th birthday and Bill misses him so much. I love hearing him talk about his dad the way he does an am so sad that I never got to meet him to thank him for raising such a fabulous son for me to love.
    Please know that it is OK to break down now and again, tears can clease the heart and the soul and make room for those beautiful memories. Lots of love and huggles, my dear friend.

  17. Your story reminds me to not take a moment for granted. Your parents sound like they were such wonderful people. And how wonderful to spend 23 days in Europe with just your mom. Being a Southern gal myself, I know what kind of wonderful people Southerners are. 🙂 Thank you Jen, for sharing your memories!

  18. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer. What a hard thing to go through! I lost my mom unexpectedly and can understand that part….but I still have dad. I can’t imagine them both being gone. I’ll pray for you and the strength to get through those tough times.

  19. I have lost both of my parents and I had to read your commentary. I am so thankful for my rich, deep memories – the tears are flowing so I may be misssspelling a few words…both of my parents were the best too!

  20. I just googled ” when you lose both parents”. I lost my mother suddenly 3 months ago and my Dad 15 yrs ago. I turn 41 on Friday. I feel so overwhelmed and often think about my childhood and all what you mentioned. It is beyond painfull. I find myself crying more. I miss them both more than anything.

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