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Being an Orphan: An End and Beginning

Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life. - Anne Rophie

People are born, people live, and people die… This is a simple, scientific fact of human life. However, our world’s simplicity becomes quickly complex with our awareness of this truth, as well as our emotional reaction to it when personally experiencing loss.

Losing a loved one, at any age, is the most devastating experience one can endure – though the trauma is even more difficult to cope with when the loved one is one or both parents. Like a metaphorical bleed from an invisible wound, a person who is surviving with the loss of his or her parents suffers from an ache that flows without end – while affecting all aspects of living. Not only are you processing a loss, but also processing the reality of your own mortality. Therefore, every person’s individual experience is uniquely connected to his or her relationship with the parents – with coping mechanisms that vary as well. For example, one may cope with crying and sadness while another copes with anger and numbness.

The individual who copes with the latter often attempts to live life with a sense of normalcy in both personal and professional life – taking on many responsibilities for distraction as a means of living on solely survival mode due to the loss of those who cared for him or her. However, for these people who attempt to be superhuman, revelations can sneak up and cause an avalanche of emotions. Whether it is a memory that stirs a realization or a brief moment of forgetfulness that the person is actually gone, the majority of people dealing with a loss will eventually go through the full grieving process.

"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on." - Havelock Ellis

The grieving process is complex – especially when losing parents – and reactions and timeframes vary person-to-person; however, it typically includes the following five stages: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

The body heals itself upon suffering a loss. Acceptance can seem devastating, but is also liberating. It is liberating because you begin to engage in self-care and seek more answers from yourself regarding a new direction and a new beginning… What do you want from life? What is the meaning of happiness? What is your purpose in life?

Regardless of your revelations along your path to recovery, know this: Your life is not just a list of events. You are the author of your own story, which means you can create, edit, interpret and retell both old chapters and new. As Rumi said: “Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. ” Seek acceptance and craft new, parentless identity – you are not leaving an old life behind, but simply beginning a fresh chapter.

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