Orphaned as an Adult
Statistics show that one-third of American 50-year-olds still have a father living, and two-thirds still have their mother. By age 60 though, two-thirds of Americans become adult orphans. As grown-ups, the loss of both parents can bring a mix of deep sadness and confusion, or even a sense of relief, particularly if the relationships were strained. For those older children now without a patriarch or matriarch, the shift in family generations feels daunting. Upon both their parents’ passing, many orphaned adults also sense the reality of their own mortality.
When both parents are gone, a surviving adult child misses a part of personal history in which experiences and memories from birth now feel less tethered. Many adult orphans also no longer have their parents’ home or a geographical community to visit. For those grown-up children who offered senior care for one or both parents along the way, no longer being responsible for a loved one’s well-being can be quite unsettling.
Death has a way of creating an indelible mark on the living, which can be turned into positive, life-giving changes for the future. For adult orphans to fare well after parental loss, personal coping skills are essential. Here are a few to consider:
- Allow yourself to truly grieve. The ebb and flow of mourning is different for everyone, and healing and acceptance take time.
- Lean on others for support. Allow a trusted family member, friend, counselor or spiritual mentor to share in your sorrow. Or, join an online grief support group to help process your feelings.
- Postpone major decisions for a while. Grief can affect a clear view of the future. Hold off on decisions about your career, finances, etc. until you are more emotionally settled.
- Care for your own needs. Safeguarding your diet, sleep and exercise can help return life to a more balanced routine.
If you or someone you know is an orphaned adult, what helpful ways can you suggest for coping with the loss and transition?