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When Our Parents Pass
When Our Parents Pass
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
When my mother passed it shook me to the bone. I knew she was dying, her prognosis was put forward months before and having liver cancer there was no chance of reprieve. She never verbally acknowledged it, choosing to sidestep the issue whenever it would inevitably come up in conversation. In retrospect, I think she was trying to protect me from the emotion of it rather than herself.
Although she was a sensitive and emotional person, she rarely discussed her worries or fears and remained a stoic figure. She no doubt got that from her mum, who had lived through the depression and the war. They had it hard and learned to take it as it came. Knowing my mum, she would have preferred not to burden me with her problems, rather than get the emotional support she needed. She was a complex woman.
The exception was when she finally admitted she had breast cancer. I visited her one weekend and she, in tears, showed me her left breast. It had a large black blemish with root like radiations just under the skin’s surface. She had felt the lump nearly twelve months earlier, and because she worked for a doctor was too embarrassed to have it looked at. I was flabbergasted. When she endued a radical mastectomy the tumour itself weighed 2.5 kilograms. A secondary tumour in her liver turned up twelve months later.
I was an only child, surviving the loss of three previous siblings: one stillborn and two miscarriages. I was the last chance for a child and luckily for me I survived. My mother dotted on me from birth, understandably, from having had her dreams crushed repeatedly. She was devoted to me and I experienced a fulfilling childhood, apart from the problems with my parent’s marriage. But for all the problems they had it was mostly hidden from me until I was about eighteen.
As sons often do, I had a close relationship with my mother and when she passed it affected me much more than I expected. You think in your ignorance that knowing something is going to happen will prepare you for it. Sadly that’s not the case. It was as if my connection to the world had somehow diminished, making me feel not only disconnected, but withdrawn. With my own marriage problems and unresolved issues I struggled for many years. But it wasn’t until my father died, also from cancer, that I felt alone.
Of course I had my own children, my own family; but losing both parents changes your perspective and indeed makes you think about your place on earth. The realisation of being alone, took me on a path of learning and understanding that changed my life. Our connection with parents is our first and most potent connection. Whether you think your relationship good or not so good, the complexity of our relationships with our parents cannot be underestimated. The turbulence and intricacy of my relationship with my mother was a major part of therapy taken because of depression years later.
Dealing with the relationships with parents and adapting to their loss is a major landmark in our lives and should be addressed earlier than later. Freud of course based much of his work on theses relationships, and for good reason. The exploration and revelations from this inquiry can reveal much about whom we are, and about what holds us back in life.
After this experience our focus as parents turns to how our kids perceive us. Understanding the impact on our relationships it becomes clear that our attention is paramount. As the saying goes....It is the circle of life .