Grief + Loss, Life Lessons

Caring for and Losing a Parent

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The loss of a parent. It’s a big one. It’s the one we all tend to lock away in the back of our minds, wanting to avoid yet knowing in our hearts will be our collective reality one day.

I cared for and lost a parent earlier than most. I was 16 when my Mum had the catastrophic car accident that would change my life and many others forever. That’s the thing about car accidents, they have lifelong consequences that most people will never truly understand. It was one day, a moment in time, light rain and the only witness was the one whose life was so very nearly taken.

As a 16 year old who lived in a bubble, denial became my coping mechanism of choice. It was just too much for me to even contemplate. Having had me at the age of 20, my 36 year old Mother was my best friend, until everything that made up her soul, personality and spirit was wiped out as she hit a telegraph pole that day.

The teenage bubble in which I had found safety, joy and my sense of family was shattered. 

My world, my heart and my life were all shattered. I wasn’t a graceful, mature Carer. The role stole my everything, and I resented it with a hate fuelled anger that would eventually drive me to contemplate suicide many times.

It was not until my late 30’s that I finally found the strength to face these demons. Years of substance abuse, addiction, dependance on alcohol and more dark times than one could normally fit into a lifetime later.

Caring for my Mother as she lived with a traumatic brain injury was deeply shocking in so many ways. There is no movie or Home and Away episode that could ever come close to this reality.

It is not always the case that the role of Carer is so heart breaking though. It is in fact a privilege and on reflection, there were days during the 11 years that our family cared for our beloved Susan-Joy when our broken hearts felt a little comfort. She may not have been the person we had known, but there were glimpses of courage, love and light that kept us going.

The loss of a parent is of course a universal loss. This common thread does not really make it any less profound or soul altering though. The loss of a parent before the natural order of things is one of the moments in time that forever define you.

It may be that this parent misses some of your big life moments. In my case, it has been 18 years of missing big life moments. Becoming a Mother myself was something I so wanted her to be a part of. It may be 18 years since her death, but the reality is that most days it is still a part of me that hurts like no other hurt.

Of course this loss can also become your greatest chance for breaking open in ways that may not otherwise be possible. Having your heart shattered elevates your existence in the most unimaginable ways, and in this space is your chance to find the lessons you were destined to uncover.

As the parents of those around me enter their elder years, at times I long to have more time with her. 48 years earthside was not enough for her bright spirit. 

I know that this loss has given me the chance to find my why. It has shown me that grief is the price we pay for love.

Finding the grace and strength to become a Carer and to navigate the loss of a parent may break your heart in many ways, it may also become a defining time in a painfully beautiful way too.

“Heart break, that’s how the magic gets in.” (Cleo Wade)

We never stop missing the parents we lose, we never stop wishing for more time. Finding those moments of light and magic either during the caring or after, this is where you will find the healing and hope.

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