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Understanding an orphan’s grief

Understanding an orphan’s grief

Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2008 9:30 pm
By: By Don Harold Lawrence

According to the “American Heritage Dictionary,” the definition of orphan is: “A child whose parents are dead.” At 11 a.m. on July 1, 1996, I became an orphan. The night before, my mother, Ann Wood Lawrence, had a heart attack, which was followed by a stroke the next morning. She died a few hours after having this stroke. Before this happened, I had never thought much about being an orphan; however, soon after Mother died, it dawned on me that, since my father, Donovan Holder Lawrence, had died on Nov. 6, 1979, in the literal sense of the word, I was an orphan. One of the things I discovered following Mother’s death is that, regardless of how long it has been since your first parent died, when your second parent dies, you grieve over both parents, not just the one who died last. It happened in my case, in part, because, following Mother’s death, Emily and I had to sort through all of the files and records that Dad and Mother had accumulated over a lifetime. They had saved everything, such as canceled checks, receipts, letters and greeting cards. While Emily and I were going through all of their personal records and belongings, I discovered that this type of grief involves a lifetime of memories and experiences. You find yourself recalling the persons and places that were important in your parents’ lives; schools they attended; places where they worked; churches and organizations to which they belonged; and special projects to which they gave themselves. As these memories come flooding back, it is like standing under Niagara Falls as the rushing waters come spilling down on you.  Like many of you who have lost a loved one, I, too, received my share of free and unsolicited advice that inevitably comes following this type of loss. A number of well-intentioned individuals gave me instructions as to what I should and should not do; some told me that I needed to be “strong”; others questioned my faith if I dared to shed a tear or raise normal questions; and several informed me as to how I should administer my parents’ estate. I somehow managed to remain silent in the face of all of these admonitions because I knew that, in the final analysis, each of us who are orphans must find our own path through grief, adjust to and accept our parents’ death and rebuild our life on the other side of loss. Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is Published in The Messenger 10.30.08

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