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Losing a Parent: Are We Destined to Feel Like Orphans?

Are we all destined to be children in the wake of our parents’ deaths?

In light of the passing of a young mother last week, I questioned the label I’d once used for myself – adult orphan. Could I really compare my loss to that of three children under the age of 10?toni2017-2

I don’t want to minimize my sense of loss at the deaths of my father and then my mother, and I don’t advocate comparing griefs. But I don’t think I know what these kids are going through.

I want to know how to help. The kids live on my street. They’ve got a home, which they shared with their mother, under the roof of their grandmother. But no one is a replacement for another.

I dated a widower with a son 25 years ago. At the time, I’d never lost anyone close to me. I started reading about grief, but reading is different from experiencing. I played with the 10-year-old boy and smiled at him a lot. But I was young and was ill equipped to be a guide for him.

“The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.” Psalm 146:9a

Beside the Bible verse, I marked the date – “12/2007” and placed the initials “TP” beside it. They stood for “tested and proven.” I’d adopted the practice in my youth. It meant I’d personally experienced the fulfillment of the promise of the verse. My father had been dead 18 months at the time, and I’d lost the love of a man I’d started dating right after the funeral. I was bereft, but God was there. I clung to him.

He brought a wonderful man into my life. We married in 2009, and Mom died four months later. I did not feel so much orphaned with her death as “transferred.” That’s the word I used. I was transferred from the household of my parents to one with my husband. Having him as a companion gave me a security I’d lost with my Dad’s death.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5

I never knew other adults felt like orphans. And then I read it in a book. Someone understood where I had been.

There’s one thing I’ve learned over the years. God doesn’t compare pain. He does not say, “Well, Suzi, you aren’t suffering like Sally, so stem your tears and feel grateful.”

No, God is an individual God. No child of his is ignored because another child’s pain is “greater,” by human comparison. He comes to each of us in our individual pain. He only asks that we reach out to others, using the knowledge from that pain.

I cannot know what it is like as a young child to lose your parent – the one who is supposed to be your guardian and your biggest fan. But I can be a friend and point anyone who’s lost a beloved to a Holy Parent who can look into a heart and life and apply a soothing remedy.

“But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14

God will do something about our troubles and our griefs. He does not leave us to flounder alone in our wounded state. Not as a child. Not as a middle-aged woman. God parents us through the devastation that death brings. To be orphaned, I think, means to be alone. Without a protector. We are not alone. God promises he won’t leave us alone.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Did you feel orphaned with the loss of a parent? What restored your sense of security? Is there a verse of scripture that helps you feel safe, that helps you feel comforted?


Copyright © 2017 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.

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