Parentless Parents: Being a Parent After the Death of Our Own Mom and Dad
How becoming a parent can heal the grief of losing a parent, from Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children
In so many ways, having children—no matter how difficult raising them is without our parents—makes grief more manageable. What is it about being a parent that makes being parentless easier? I think there are a number of factors.
You Can See Your Parents in Your Children
When her mother died, Jayne Jaudon Ferrer says she’d just look at her sons and feel better. She’d get the same calming effect from spending time with her nephew. “My son, Jaron, has a dry wit that reminds me of my dad. My brother’s son walks exactly like my daddy did, and has his ears. It’s not the same as having a parent, but it’s like a piece of him is here. Here’s this configuration of DNA—it’s not in the same form—but at least [there’s] some tangible piece of that person there for you.”
Tarah Epstein Baiman feels the same type of warmth when she looks at her son, Jesse. “My husband and I are both dark. Jesse is fair-skinned with blue eyes, like my dad. When I look at Jesse, I see my dad and it’s an incredible comfort to me,” she says.
I’ve had to work hard at this kind of thinking. For much of their lives, when I looked at my kids Jake and Lexi, I sometimes saw only what was missing from mine. Jake has my dad’s redheaded complexion, and that resemblance made me sad. Slowly (and not altogether smoothly, I admit) I’ve been trying to change my way of thinking so that similarities that once brought me pain now bring me pleasure. For example, Jake is a social animal just like my mom. While some children drop their best friends from year to year, Jake keeps adding. The fact that Jake seems so much like my mom in this way makes me happy. And likewise, when Lexi paints, draws, or sculpts a house of clay, instead of thinking how sad it is that my dad’s not here to see his architectural talents passed on to his granddaughter, I now try to focus on how great it is she even has some of his abilities at all.