Trying to Parent After Losing Your Own

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Being a parent is the most rewarding job there is. I am sure that isn’t the first time you have heard that statement. You never truly know how profound it is until you don’t have your parents anymore.

In a span of less than four months I lost both of my parents to cancer. My step-dad was my dad for 25 years. He passed in November 2017 after a 4-year battle. Shortly after, my mom passed in March 2018 from an almost 15-year battle with cancer. These few months were the hardest of my life even though this was something we had been preparing for as a family for a while.

My son was just shy of his second birthday when my mom passed. Balancing grief, taking care of my family, sharing care responsibilities for my mom in hospice, and working as a full time teacher was more than I could handle. I took leave from my job so I could focus on my family. It was the best decision I made during this time. Looking back, I am not really sure how I did it all or how I got through it.

My son was their first grandchild. He was the center of their world even though they lived five hours away. I did my best to make sure they saw him as much as possible. Most family vacations revolved around traveling to see them or them coming to see us. The stress from travel was a no-brainer. I wanted my child to have involved grandparents that he would know, and my parents to have a bond with their grandchild.

When they passed, I wasn’t sure how a two year old would handle the loss of two important people in his life, and I really wasn’t sure how I was going to explain it to him. As of today, he has adjusted well to the idea. He loves looking at pictures of them and can still identify who they are.

Once they were gone I realized just how much I missed all the eye rolling advice my mom would give me. She always meant well and most of it was good. I constantly think, Who am I going to get it from now? Do they really know me or my baby like my mom did? My mom would always confirm my choices were right, who was going to tell me that now?

Finding out I was pregnant again, 6 months later on the weekend we spread their ashes was a happy and oddly somber occasion. No one was more excited than my parents last time I announced my pregnancy and now I had no one cheering on the other end of the phone.

My parents may not be here, but their spirits, knowledge and love are. They are a part of me and influence my parenting to this day. I may not have the confirmation I need that I am doing a good job, but the little time I was a parent before they left this earth was all I really needed to build the confidence in myself.

At some point, a lot of us will deal with parenting without a parent being there, whether they are long distance, deceased, or sick. It seems odd to be a grown adult wanting your mommy or daddy, but it’s really not. They shaped who you are as a person, and as a parent, and you should let yourself feel that way.

Let their memory, both the good and the bad, live on in you and your children. Trust and have faith in yourself and the community you have built around you to raise your children. And most importantly, remember what a truly rewarding job it is to be a parent, regardless of how clichè.

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I live in Gilbert with my beautiful son Paul who is 5, my 2 year old son Finn, my silly pit bull Armani, and my amazing husband Ryan. We have been married 5 years but have known each other since middle school. He truly is my best friend and better half. I went to Arizona State University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. I am about to start my 13th year teaching elementary school in Arizona. Helping and teaching children is a huge part of me. I love to play dodgeball. Yep, dodgeball. I mostly play recreationally and for fun.

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