Life Without Parents

by Mary Rosenthol
Originally Published: 
Rain drops on a glass that with a blurred view of a tree behind the glass

Bring on the rain softly plays in the background instead of seasonal Christmas carols. My favorite apple flavored candle is burning. The smell of pine does not invade my senses and I am thrilled that the snow is not coating my world.

I cannot believe it another year has passed in my life without parents. On December 23, almost 14 years ago, my mother lost a long battle with metastatic lung cancer. A year and 7 months later, my father was gone too. In between my parents, I lost a baby. At the time, I was in my early 20s with my whole life ahead of me. I had a new husband, our first house and I was making the change from college to the workplace.

Everywhere I go there are reminders of my personal history. The twinkle of lights in darkened windows, pictures of happy families on my Facebook feed, the smell of Chanel Number 5 in the mall, even the scent of pipe smoke brings tears to my eyes. I try to mask the inner turmoil with smiles, but some days are harder than others and December 23 is the worst.

Many of you Scary Moms and Dads know exactly what I’m talking about. You have lost loved ones during the holidays. While others laugh and celebrate, like me, you want to hide under the covers until the season is over.

After my father died in 2002, I felt alone in the world without an anchor. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders and without them I felt I had lost my way. My in-laws and husband were amazing. But the could not grasp the enormity of my pain.

Many options are available for people facing personal tragedy. Hospitals and religious organizations offer grief support groups. I found a grief counselor to help during the first few months after each death. One of the coping strategies was to keep a daily diary. I wrote down my feelings in a journal, which I eventually turned into a book. And sometimes I just let go to wallow in my emotions.

Several years have past. Now, my daughters and husband are my every day reality. Honestly, some days they are the only things that keep me going. When my girls were little I wanted to call my mom and ask advice. When did I walk or talk? How did she deal with the sleepless nights, diaper rash, a sick baby? But I could never ask her those questions. I don’t even have a baby book.

This past week, I did an interview with a local reporter promoting my book. I have known Jamie for years and she said, “I never knew you were an orphan. You’ve never told me.” She’s right. It’s not a secret, but I do keep quiet about it. I find that people look at me differently or feel uncomfortable in my presence after finding out.

If you’re in the same position as me, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I understand. I respect the good days and the bad. Sometimes, I wish I could cry along with you. But we keep it together often for the small humans we brought into this world. We forge ahead on those days that bring the toughest of memories and hope that time can begin to repair the worst of our wounds.

In a few hours, I will light a candle in my mother’s memory like I do every year. I’ll talk to my daughters about my parents and continue to pass on the many lessons they taught me. Like the rain, December 23 will pass. Until next year.

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