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Becoming an Adult Orphan at 42


orphan42

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February 11, 2012 was my daughter's birthday. It was also the day my parents were to travel 5 hours across the state of Florida to come visit for two weeks, as they did every year around their grandchildren's birthdays. (My son's birthday was just a few days later on February 14, 2012.) So the day started out great, everyone was happy, and my parents had started their journey around 9am. About midway through their drive, my father who had been driving for the first 3 hours handed off the wheel to my mother. Shortly after the switch, my sister, who was in New York where they lived year round, had actually spoke to my father who was now resting in the passenger seat. He told my sister that his shoulder was hurting so he was going to rest for a bit while my mom drove. This was around 11:45am they spoke.

Fast forward a few hours to 2pm. This is the time I was expecting my parents but figuring maybe they stopped along the way or hit traffic, I wasn't thinking much. When 3pm rolled around I decided to give my parents a call on their cell phone. First I tried my dad, and then my mom. No response. Perhaps they were in a dead zone and their cells weren't working. 3:30pm comes and they don't show up. Starting to get worried, I call again. Again, no response from either phone, only voicemail. 4pm comes and now my stomach is turning. This is not like my parents to just not show up without calling. They were excited to come and they knew we were having a birthday dinner, so there was no way they would be this late on purpose. 4:15pm comes and my wife has to leave for the airport to pickup another relative. She takes our daughter who is still on cloud 9 about her birthday, but leaves our almost 4 year old son behind.

I was trying to keep my son busy and my mind occupied, but I had also started looking online for numbers to call the Florida Highway Patrol. Something was not right and I knew it. I mapped their trip on Google and then figured out where they might have been when my sister spoke with them last at 11:45am. I was about to pick up the phone just after 5pm when the phone rang. I saw the callerID said Florida Highway Patrol and immediately knew something tragic had happened. The trooper told me my parents had been in a fatal car accident. My mother died at the scene and my father had been taken to the hospital by helicopter in very critical condition.

As my son was right next to me at the time I just dropped to the ground. I was shocked and speechless. My son only wanting to play and looking out the window for Grandma and Grandpa's car, I could not even begin to explain what was going on. I texted my wife and asked her how long it was going to be before she got home. It was a long 40 minutes before she walked through the door with her grandmother. I immediately took her in the bedroom and told her what happened. We both cried for about 10 minutes and then I stood up and said I need to get to the hospital which was about 60 miles way. I needed to see what condition my father was in. So I got in the car and made my way 65 miles south to the hospital. Along the way calling my sister, the friend they had just visited on the other site of the state, and several other close family and friends.

The hour of driving to the hospital not knowing if my father was going to make it was excruciating. When I got there around 9pm I was told he had just gotten out of surgery. He had broken the entire left side of his body in the car crash. But those were all bones that could heal. His major problem was brain trauma. When I finally saw him he was in a coma on a ventilator and he had a feeding tube. For the next 11 days he showed absolutely no signs of improvement and we were told that by 2 weeks he would need to have his ventilator removed and have a procedure known as a trach/peg, where they insert the breathing tube through the neck and the feeding tube through the belly. This is in preparation for shipping the patient off to the nursing home of your choice for long term care. We were told he had next to zero percent chance of being anything more than in a vegetative state. As my father had an advanced health directive and a DNR, we pulled him off life support (an extremely emotional and difficult decision no one should have to make ever). The doctors removed the breathing tube and feeding tubes and my father was moved into hospice care.

Unlike the movies, people don't just die when they're taken off life support. In my dad's case, he went another 8 days, breathing on his own for that period, as his body slowly started shutting down. The most difficult thing a person can see and watch is to see a loved one as their life ends. Not to mention, this whole time, now 18 days after my mom died, I never had time to process that she actually died.

So within 3 weeks I'm an adult orphan. The wisdom of my parents, the only people who knew everything about my early days are gone. The only people I could trust and turn to whenever anything happened are gone. The only people I could rely on 100% of the time, 24/7 are gone....and in such a tragic, violent, abrupt manner.

As if none of what I've said is bad enough, as it's not typical that both of your parents die at basically the same time, and in a tragic car accident, the legal mess that has already begun makes everything that has already happened even more painful.

Most of all I wonder why. Why did this happen the way it did? Why did it happen when it did? Another few seconds and they would've have driven 70mph directly into a tree. If my dad wasn't sleeping he would've panicked and tried to grab the wheel. If my mother wasn't slumped over or didn't have a medical emergency (now confirmed by autopsy), she would've swerved. But rather they drove on a straight line into the only tree around. This just an hour or two before the birthday dinner of their grandchildren they were so happy to be coming to see. So there are a lot of questions I have that repeat themselves in my head over and over and over. And being thrust into legal claims and probate issues is certainly not fun when I'm still trying to process and come to terms with what has happened.

The only thing since my parent's deaths that has given me some sort of comfort is what happened the other day to me. Alone in a park w/ my dogs, I looked up in the sky. There were a bunch of clouds scattered about, but with a gust of wind, the clouds started moving and converging over me. Within seconds a feeling of warmth and laughter came over me. I looked up and was staring at a cloud that appeared to be a face, and a face that appeared to be that of my father. I instantly started giggling and talking to this face cloud as if it was my father. I thanked him for letting me know he was OK and for looking over me. For about 10 minutes this cloud stayed overhead as I experienced just a level of comfort throughout my whole body. I recall smiling the whole time until someone else showed up. And as that person showed up the clouds (and face) started to dissipate.

After, I showed the photos I took of the cloud face to my wife, kids, friends and so on. Every single one of them agreed they saw a face. As to whether or not it was my father, I can only believe it was him telling me that my parents are OK.

I've attached the photo so you can judge for yourself what I saw...but since I've at least accepted the fact that they're gone and they're in peace. That doesn't change the fact that every day there are triggers that cause me to grieve over and over, but I guess in time that gets better. Not really sure when it will get better. Sometimes I think it's better they both basically went together, because at 70 years old, having been married 46 years to each other, could they have survived apart? Is that why when my mom died, my dad went with her? even if 3 weeks later? Lots of questions......which I mostly think about while I'm not sleeping.

Would love to hear from other adult orphans or people who have recently lost a parent and have any thoughts, tips, advice on how to better cope and grieve. Seems like there is always something to set me off whether it's a restaurant they liked that I pass by, or hearing a song they liked, or just watching my kids knowing they'll never see grandma and grandpa again.

(Some rant, huh? Helps to talk about it!)

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HI,

I just wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss. I lost my Mom 11 weeks ago today and I have yet to figure out how to cope. I do get signs from her here and there and I take great comfort in them. That cloud is amazing and I believe it was a sign from your parents that they are indeed OK. I can share a few things that help me. I bought a journal and when I am having a hard time I write in it. I may write to my Mom or about my feelings or tell her things I never got to say and it does help. My dad and I also started attending a grief support group at my Mom's church. That helps us tremendously. It is very emotional and we are usually so drained for days afterwards but to be around people who know what we are going through truly helps. It also helps to come to this forum and talk about your feelings. MY kids are 7 and 4 and I often cry not only for me but for them no new memories to share, vacations, laughs, they have had a hard time of it. How are your children doing? Please continue to visit the site it really helps share memories talk about your parents ask questions this site has been great for me and I hope it helps you as well.

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I cried when I read your post Orphan42. Three and a half months ago I lost my mom suddenly and unexpectedly. Two days before that, my ex-mother in law passed away. Their obituaries were side by side in the newspaper. This was right before Christmas. My two children are young adults, but it was devastating for everyone. My parents divorced when I was very young and I grew up without knowing my father. My mother was so strong and independent, always there for all of us. She was a second mother to my children and lived with us the last 14 years. The day between both grandmother's 2nd month aniversary of their passing, we had to put down our 14 year old cat. We had reached a point where we thought we were finally moving forward, and our cat's death just brought everything rusing back.

You are right. Nothing is like it is on TV. The mess left behind by the paramedics was shocking. No one sees that on TV. The sound of sirens still make me cringe and probably always will. I love the moment you shared about when you saw the cloud. I have been waiting for some sign from my mom. I need to know she is okay. Others in the family say they have sensed my mom, but I haven't yet. Maybe I am not ready. I too am having issues with the legal stuff, but hopefully things will be settled soon. For me I need everything finalized or I feel like I can't move forward. It's like it is something holding me back all the time.

For me, the thing that has helped the most is talking about my mom. I am lucky my son still lives at home and we are both grieving. We talked about my mom so much at the beginning. We cried together. We just let the grieving come and didn't fight it. You need to look after yourself too. Sleeping and eating was hard, but you need to make sure you do it. I took 3 weeks off work because I needed time to adjust. I have good friends who listen when I need to cry or vent. And when I am alone and feeling down I come here. A journal is also a good outlet. Also, I have my mother's ashes in my living room. Strangely, it gives me a sense of comfort. knowing she is close. Another thing that helped was listening to the music from her service. The songs had special meaning to the family and there was a period of time where I needed to hear them. Maybe it was a way to remind myself that she is gone because sometimes it felt as if I was waiting for her to return from visiting my sister.

Easter is around the corner and I know this will be a difficult time. My mom used to send flowers to the church where her parents' are buried and I am wondering if I should continue that tradition for her. My mom is not buried there as there was no room left and it was not her wish, but I might go there one day and see if I can get a plaque placed by her parents with my mom's name and info on it. I am also wondering if it would be ok to include my mom's name with the flowers

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Thanks for your response Mrssumr and advice. It has definitely been helpful to find this website and share what's on my mind and read about others who have had similar tragedies and losses. Lately, a day seems like a month and a month seems like a year to me. It was just a month since my dad passed (and now 49 days since my mom passed.) Being with my kids daily (11 and 4) brings me both joy and tears as I just can't stop thinking about the lack of future memories, laughs, vacations, etc. as you said. My kids in general are OK. My 4 year old son is really too young to understand what happened. He just knows grandma and grandpa didn't come over. But my daughter was truly upset by what happened. At the same time, with school, friends, video games, etc, etc...she's doing fine. When my daughter and I have daddy/daughter days I try to incorporate talk about her grandparents and talk about all the good times we all had together. And when I'm with my son, I just know that when he's old enough he'll hear all about the times he had with his grandparents when he was younger. But again, that just makes me think about all the times he won't have with them too. Anyway, I'm doing my best to keep my emotions and thoughts flowing. I know it's best not to bottle anything up. I've been trying to find a suitable group in my area, but haven't found anything yet. My wife and family have been great, but I know I really need someone outside of the house. Anyway, doing the best I can for sure!

HI,

I just wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss. I lost my Mom 11 weeks ago today and I have yet to figure out how to cope. I do get signs from her here and there and I take great comfort in them. That cloud is amazing and I believe it was a sign from your parents that they are indeed OK. I can share a few things that help me. I bought a journal and when I am having a hard time I write in it. I may write to my Mom or about my feelings or tell her things I never got to say and it does help. My dad and I also started attending a grief support group at my Mom's church. That helps us tremendously. It is very emotional and we are usually so drained for days afterwards but to be around people who know what we are going through truly helps. It also helps to come to this forum and talk about your feelings. MY kids are 7 and 4 and I often cry not only for me but for them no new memories to share, vacations, laughs, they have had a hard time of it. How are your children doing? Please continue to visit the site it really helps share memories talk about your parents ask questions this site has been great for me and I hope it helps you as well.

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Hi Bridelyn - Thanks for sharing your story and I'm very sorry for all your losses. I certainly know the feeling of thinking it can't possibly get any worse....I think I'm there right now again. How could it? But then I think about my family and all that I have to be thankful for right now. If anything happened to any of them (or any of the 5 pets), it would be even more devastating. This feeling of being stuck until everything is finalized is absolutely a feeling of misery for me, you, us. I know. I just today received letters for unpaid bills in the 10s of 1000s of dollars that were not paid directly due to my parent's auto insurance being primary due to their accident, vs their actual health insurance. I'm thankful I have good lawyers to handle everything, but with it will be months still before everything is finalized. I find myself not sleeping at night because I'm always thinking about the 27 things that have to be done the next day to deal w/ their estate. When and where is their time to grieve when you're thrust into dealing w/ your parents estates?!? And for me, I'm in Florida and my parents lived in NY, so I'm flying back and forth to NY every few weeks to further deal w/ their house and personal belongings. Another daunting task that you're thrust into all of a sudden. And at the end of all this misery I have life insurance, death benefits, pensions and bank accounts to collect?!?! Just doesn't make any sense to me. Some nights I lay awake thinking it's some kind of twisted joke or dream....but in the end, I know it isn't.

We too have my parent's ashes here with us. Somehow I find comfort in knowing they finally made it here. We purchased the most beautiful heart-shaped urns for them and now they sit together in our living room where they should be, with their family. But of course each time I look at them I sit and think about why this all had to happen and why they're not actually here with us. I know some day that will change, but for now it's still really hard to swallow.

In terms of signs, I have to admit, I look at that photo of the cloud every day. It makes me feel good because I see the outline of my father's face in the cloud and that brings me back to that exact moment when the face cloud appeared. I would've liked to have had some sign directly from my mother, but I'm still waiting for that to happen. Although, just today I happened to be at the zoo w/ my daughter and we were in the souvenir shop. They had a bunch of zoo-branded signs that said 'Katherine Street' and every other kid's name. Well my mom's name is Evelyn. Not a very common name these days. You don't see her name on most souvenirs....yet my daughter spun the display around looking for her name, and right there staring at me was 'Evelyn Street'. I thought it was pretty odd as I've been in that souvenir shop 100x before....and maybe I just never noticed her name because I wouldn't have thought about it before...but maybe not. I just don't know anymore. Maybe these little signs are just gentle reminders to not forget your loved ones. I don't know. I think the key is to not look for signs, but just take in all that is around you...and maybe, just maybe you'll see something out of the ordinary that could be your mom in some way, shape or form. But what do I know...I'm just a guy who saw my dad's face in the clouds :P

In terms of sending the flowers, honestly, I think if it will make you feel good to carry on the tradition, certainly do it. There would be no harm in adding "...in Loving memory of Grandma, Grandpa and Mom" ..... or their names....or whatever you want to add. You just need to do what feels right to you. My parents donated money annually to the National Kidney Foundation (as my father was a kidney donor recipient), so we will continue on that tradition and donate money to NKF in their names each year. Also, prior to cremating my parents, we had looked into burial options and we were quite amazed at what we found. Depending upon the cemetery you can bury cremains next to a regular burial plot, or add a headstone to a family plot. There were various options available to us as we had family in the cemetery we were dealing with as well. Quiet honestly, and I hate to say it like this, but there was such a menu of options presented to us from the cemetery that it's just like any other business. So in short, I'm sure they can accommodate your needs if you wanted to add a plaque for your mom.

Anyway, I hope you find closure soon...and sorry I made you cry. I think I have one of those tragic stories you read about on the news and think could never, ever happen to you, until it does. Still blows my mind this is real and not a dream.

I cried when I read your post Orphan42. Three and a half months ago I lost my mom suddenly and unexpectedly. Two days before that, my ex-mother in law passed away. Their obituaries were side by side in the newspaper. This was right before Christmas. My two children are young adults, but it was devastating for everyone. My parents divorced when I was very young and I grew up without knowing my father. My mother was so strong and independent, always there for all of us. She was a second mother to my children and lived with us the last 14 years. The day between both grandmother's 2nd month aniversary of their passing, we had to put down our 14 year old cat. We had reached a point where we thought we were finally moving forward, and our cat's death just brought everything rusing back.

You are right. Nothing is like it is on TV. The mess left behind by the paramedics was shocking. No one sees that on TV. The sound of sirens still make me cringe and probably always will. I love the moment you shared about when you saw the cloud. I have been waiting for some sign from my mom. I need to know she is okay. Others in the family say they have sensed my mom, but I haven't yet. Maybe I am not ready. I too am having issues with the legal stuff, but hopefully things will be settled soon. For me I need everything finalized or I feel like I can't move forward. It's like it is something holding me back all the time.

For me, the thing that has helped the most is talking about my mom. I am lucky my son still lives at home and we are both grieving. We talked about my mom so much at the beginning. We cried together. We just let the grieving come and didn't fight it. You need to look after yourself too. Sleeping and eating was hard, but you need to make sure you do it. I took 3 weeks off work because I needed time to adjust. I have good friends who listen when I need to cry or vent. And when I am alone and feeling down I come here. A journal is also a good outlet. Also, I have my mother's ashes in my living room. Strangely, it gives me a sense of comfort. knowing she is close. Another thing that helped was listening to the music from her service. The songs had special meaning to the family and there was a period of time where I needed to hear them. Maybe it was a way to remind myself that she is gone because sometimes it felt as if I was waiting for her to return from visiting my sister.

Easter is around the corner and I know this will be a difficult time. My mom used to send flowers to the church where her parents' are buried and I am wondering if I should continue that tradition for her. My mom is not buried there as there was no room left and it was not her wish, but I might go there one day and see if I can get a plaque placed by her parents with my mom's name and info on it. I am also wondering if it would be ok to include my mom's name with the flowers

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Hi Orphan 42, boy oh boy, I am so sorry this happened for one. My story is pretty bad too but like you i loved my mom dearly. It was just her and i , we were inseperable and now she is gone. We drove from Calif to Jersey and the hospital here said she should be in a nursing home, long story short, they did not do enough for her.

Anyway, I used to live in florida also. My mother passed away on nov 14, like your dad she ended up on a ventilator and did an endoscopy to see if she could take a peg tube. She never recovered from that. My mom was the best lady from scotland, strong, smart and a heart of gold. I know how you feel, its tough, its been 4.5 months for me and i still miss her alot.

You will go thru periods of being in tears, and yes there are triggers that remind you of them, the first 6 to 8 weeks were really hard on me. I cried alot. I kept driving by her place, where she ate, the grocery store everything reminded me of her.

Mom and I were going to come to florida before all this happened. So i may still go when i am ready but without her it won't be the same.

I will pray for your healing but you will need to work through it and it sounds like you are...I know the orphan thing, i was the only child.. so at 53 i study alot and keep busy at the gym, swimming, etc. hopeing to get back to work soon.

Thanks for posting your a good writer and i heart you for telling this difficullt story, you and your family are in my prayers.

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Dont apologize for making me cry. I dont do it enough these days. First couple of weeks that is all I did. Now the tears wont come. After I posted my reply to you yesterday I went to get groceries. Stopped and got the mail and hoped there was nothing addressed to my mom. Received a condolence card from the vet and started crying again. I miss our cat so much. He would cuddle on my lap when I was missing mom and would cheer me up. We have his ashes beside my mom's. I like to think he is cuddled up on my mom's lap now.

The estate thing drives me nuts. My mom was so organized and worked in the legal field most of her life, yet she never updated her will like she always said she wanted to. She thought she would live to be 100. It was 3 months before the executor did anything. Fortunately, I was able to start the process with all my mom's insurances and the beneficiaries have received their payments. Her bank account was finally closed 2 weeks ago so it looks like things are finally moving forward. Last weekend I had family over to clean out my mom's bedroom. We found a lot of interesting stuff. She was a little bit of a hoarder LOL. We found an old character sketch of her so we are planning on getting copies made and framed.

I think I will call my aunt about the Easter flowers and she what she thinks and whether or not it would be appropriate to put my mom's name on them as well since she isn't buried there. But she did go to that church when she was a child.

I wish I had that cloud like you. You are very lucky. I guess I will just keep waiting and when I least expect it, the sign will come. But I do have my mom's stuck up, spoiled cat who was her prized possession. tongue.gif

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It is too tough but I don't think I have accepted it yet. Going through the motions and focusing on my health for now and its worked for a few months at least.

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Hi Orphan42, I am so sorry that you had to experience the loss of both of your parents in such a short period of time. The pain must be unbearable for you at this time. I lost my father 24 years ago, & the pain is still with me. I was never the same again. However, I was fortunate in the fact that I still had my mom by my side. I was an only child & the bond that I had with my parents was like non other. I lost my mom in January & I now feel totally alone. I am married, with two adult sons, & I am fortunate to have two beautiful grandchildren. My mom had cancer which spread very quickly from the colon, to the lung,to the bone, & then to the brain in a few short months. She had a living will & I was unable to keep her alive. I had to watch her struggle to breath, & had to watch the hospice staff starve her to death. I live with this pain, every day of my life. I was with her when she took her last breath! I miss her so very much! She was my rock & my best friend. There was nothing that she wouldn't do for me. I am totally lost without her. I feel like I just can't go on most times. I did go to a grieving group, which did not help me at all. Maybe a group would be helpful for you. The person running the group was not very good,& only a few people returned the following week. You might be more fortunate! Take care!

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Hi Orphan 42 just read your story and i realize how tough and cruel life can be. I mean just like that we lose our loved ones what is going on ? I hope you have done well in the last 18 months. I can also relate to sudden shock.

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Last_Ry_Standing

Reading all the stories had the same polarizing impact on my emotions as the loss of my Mom did last year. I was thankful that her passing was painless and that I was there for her. Yet the realization of losing that pure unconditional love left me paralyzed.

You see, what makes my story unusual is that I'm an only child and both my parents were also. Which means I was the only grandchild of my four grandparents, and I soaked up all that love! However, it also meant I had no aunts or uncles, and therefore no first cousins.

My Dad was my best friend, my hero, my coach, my sporting rival (golf & tennis & bowling). When I was 19, he died from a sudden heart attack at only 48 years old. To say his death stunted my transition to manhood is a huge understatement, it impacted every aspect of my life. I certainly felt cheated and empty for many years, still do to some degree. I turned 40 in 2012 which meant I had lived more years without my Dad than with him, a heavy milestone.

I lost my grandparents, one every few years, between age 14 and 29. Then last year, after 50 years of smoking, my Mom caught the inevitable lung cancer and spent her final months on oxygen. Her active lifestyle sucked out of her as she was left confined to the house.

Now I'm left with pictures, memories, her dog, and nobody to answer to, which sounds ok, but I also have NOBODY to answer to, thus nobody to keep me in line. Nobody to make proud.

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