Tag Archives: grief

…and then a bad day happens.

So in my last post, I talked about dealing with the holidays.  We just had U.S. Thanksgiving.  I’m originally Canadian and celebrate CDN Thanksgiving in October (which really isn’t a big deal), but have begun to celebrate the U.S. festivities as well.  All my friends and family are in Canada and can’t take time off during the week to come join us, so this year it was just me, my husband and our little boy.  It was actually a really great day.  Time off work, no scheduling demands, other than cooking a turkey.

Daycare was open on Black Friday so I dropped off my boy and did some shopping.

Now, Saturday Nov. 28th is our anniversary – married 7 years now.  So my awesome husband made plans for his parents to watch the boy over the whole weekend.  I was super excited.  So Friday night at “bedtime” he drove 2 hours to his parents to drop off the boy.  Then drove 2 hours back to spend the weekend with me.

Our weekend alone was super productive.  I accomplished so many things around the house in 1-2 days that would normally take 1-2 weeks, in the evenings/weekends at home while playing with my boy.  Of course, being our anniversary, we had time together too, candles and all.  😉

Now you have to understand that this was the first time the boy (18 months old) has spent a full weekend away from both parents.  At times, he is with momma when dadda travels, or with dadda when momma gets a weekend break alone.  But never away from both of us at the same time, for 2 whole days and nights.

When I went to pick him up, his face just lit up.  He was soooooo excited to see momma again and he hugged me longer than he ever has.  As much as I really enjoyed the time without him, being a woman again, I realized that he was really scared that maybe momma and dadda would not come back.  This is normal for toddlers and small kids, at this stage.  Without words, it’s hard for us to communicate fully, but I’ve been told that this is the time of life for a toddler to have real separation anxiety.

Since we returned on Sunday, he has been clingy.   But I have also been unnaturally moody as well.  It made no sense to me.  I had such a great weekend, why would I suddenly feel such heightened emotions after a relaxing weekend?

Then it hit us.  After calm weekend, no child, I let down my guards to fully relax.  But the moment my boy hugged me, I recognized the feeling of fear and abandonment from being left alone.  I knew it because I felt it as a child and I still feel it now, from the loss of my dad when I was just 5 years old.

Now, as you may know, young children who lose a parent feel a sense of abandonment.  They just don’t know how to process abstract emotions of grief with their still developing brains.  And to lose a parent, who is viewed as a stable source of security in the world.  Well, it’s tough to deal with.  Why did they leave?  Did i do anything wrong to make them leave?  Am I a bad boy/girl?  These are typical feelings for a young child who loses a parent.  There is a lot of literature on young children and grief.  Personally, I only started to process these childhood emotions as an adult in my 20’s.

I instantly recognized that fear of abandonment in my little boy when I hugged him.  It took me 2 days later to realize that it triggered my own childhood trauma.  And after letting my guards down so much from a relaxing weekend, it was so much easier for that lost and broken little girl to return, as there were no walls holding her back from my regular adult life.

As my husband said:  “You carry so much hurt, so much emotion inside you every day.  Such hurt that I can never begin to imagine.  And you hold it back with a wall so it doesn’t interfere with your daily life as an adult, as a professional.  But when it does come out, it’s a tsunami.”

Recognizing the feeling of abandonment in my boy triggered my own residual feelings of abandonment.  It never really goes away, I just learn more each day about myself and dealing with such emotions.  It doesn’t help that my mom has since passed as well, and never got to meet my boy.  It just muddies the waters of already complex emotions of grief.  And still, I need to re-assure my boy that momma will not leave him, when I know darn well that a stray accident or illness could make me a liar.  As a mom, I know what he needs to hear because I still want to hear it too.  I know I need to tell him these things, even when I know them to be false.  We are all just dust in the wind and eventually, even moms and dads can’t be around forever, as much as we want them to be, or we ourselves want to be for our own children.

Today is Tuesday, and I am having a bad day.  That lost and broken little girl just wants her mom or dad to tell her it’s ok, so the adult woman can pass it on to her little boy.

The Stages of Grief – is it Grief or is it more?

Hello again.

I found a great photo recently that expands upon the traditional 7 stages of grief.

More than 7 stages to this cycle of grief!
More than 7 stages to this cycle of grief!

Part of me was drawn to it as it’s far more nuanced and it explains the  complexity of grief so much better than the traditional model.

5 years after the passing of my mom, I find myself bouncing around between the Loneliness/Isolation, all the way up to the “new” items.  I don’t feel that I’ve reached “hope” yet.

I feel that the complexity of this image is more true to the complexity of grief in general.  All too often, we try to label or categorize things into hard “black and white” places when the whole topic is shadowed by numerous shades of grey.  No, not that popular book/movie.  I mean, it’s more muddy, less defined than the textbook 7 stages.

To compare, here are the traditional 7 stages of grief:

traditional 7 stages of grief - a simpler model
traditional 7 stages of grief – a simpler model

Now, when I say that grief is more complex than simple labels and categories, here’s what I mean.

Recently, I was having a tough few days.  I was super sensitive.  Partly from lack of sleep with a toddler, partly from overwhelm with work tasks, and I’ll be honest, partly from “lady stuff” around that time of month.  TMI?  I don’t care!  lol

Anyway, I was super sensitive, emotions triggered by the silliest little things.  My husband, who understands this most of the time, was in a more analytical mindset and came off harshly in a comment:

“Why are you so sensitive?  You’re a basket case!”  (I’m paraphrasing here.)

To be honest, I don’t even recall the specifics of the discussion, but I replied something to the effect:

“I’m overwhelmed, exhausted, “Aunt Flo,” and frankly, I just want mom here to complain to!”

And then it hit the both of us like a lightning bolt.  Whenever 2-3 things in life are generally getting me down, it just opens the door for grief to flare it’s ugly head.  It’s those moments when I’m bogged down with life that I want mom the most.  She and I would complain to each other all the day long, getting the negative out of our system.  We understood each other.

My husband, on the other hand is very positive minded and very into self-fulfillment, self-motivation and other self-help topics that empower a person to stop complaining and take action.  And in general, he hates it when I complain.  I get so busy and out of touch with friends’ lives that I have to explain too much about a “complaint situation” to just bring them up to speed, before actually just complaining, that it just seems like too much work.  Also, I don’t want to villainize my husband to friends by only giving them the negative and not the positive.  Suffice to say, I am lacking my outlet that I once relied on.

What I realized from this moment is that too often the overlap between grief and other mental illness labels just makes everything confusing.  Especially “so long” after the death has happened.

“Why are you depressed all the time?”  — I’m not depressed, I’m in a depression phase of grief, triggered by current situations!

In polite society there is an “accepted” period of time for grief and past the 1 year mark, we are expected to move on.  But it’s hard to tell emotions about the calendar date when they are expected to just vanish from existence.  And when outsiders either don’t know your situation well enough or haven’t experienced the loss themselves, they may not realize that it’s rarely a linear path, so clean and neat.

I can say from experience that I jump in and out of “being fine and normal” and “having grief.”  the grief, much like depression, comes and goes depending on the circumstances of life that may trigger it.  And when depression is one of the clinical labels within the grief cycle, then you start to understand the pattern and how confusing it is.

So, going back to the first image of a more complex and expanded cycle of grief, I feel that it more accurately shows what is actually happening within the mind of someone who has experienced loss.

Be gentle with those who are “cranky” or having a mental health day.  In general, it’s polite to address mental health anyway.  But you never know when the mental health issue is more nuanced and/or part of a larger grief cycle.

Everything is always more complex than it seems.

…….Until it’s not, but that’s probably the cranky side of me complaining again!


Adult Orphan .com

Hello World!

I am an adult orphan, and this is my story.

Orphan – a child, usually under 18, with both parents deceased  (like Batman or Oliver Twist)

Adult Orphan – a legal adult (or teenager) with both parents deceased

The are many books on grief. There are only a few on adult orphans.

Of the books or on adult orphans, most focus on the middle aged+ “baby boomer” who loses a parent around the age of 65-80+ and nothing about the 15-35 year old people out there.

I lost my dad at age 5.

(It was actually 4 days before my 5th birthday.)

I was lucky to have my mom longer, but even she passed at 52, when I was just 28 myself.

(Not even 2 months after my summer wedding)

There are grief and bereavement support groups in most areas. For parent loss of a child. For children who lose a parent. Even for loss of a pet. Grief is grief right?

I attended one group for adult orphans in my local area. It was a pleasant group, but I was 30 years old in a room full of 50+ ladies and one guy. One or two may have been 45ish.

My point?

I always tell people this, about the books, and the group:

It’s all nice. But most people who I bond with over loss of parents are about the same age that my parents would have been, so it makes the experience bitter-sweet.

There is less material by, about or for a 15-35 year old audience.

As a society, we expect a 50+ to lose a parent at 80+ from old age.

But think about….

The 15+ teenager, guy or girl without mom or dad for advice on dating and sex, or other gender-based issues.

Or the 25+ adult orphans without mom and dad for weddings, birth of children, or other life lessons or accomplishments.

And myself, a 32 year old seeking parenting advice, a grandparent babysitter and the stories of myself as a baby to compare to my son.

This website will chronicle my thoughts and my story as a Young Adult Orphan.

This website is also a community for other adult orphans. I welcome others to comment, share your story, or contact me personally.

I hope to both share my perspective, my advice, my story, but I want to learn from others too.

And most important, I want to give hope to other adult orphans that you are not alone.