Adult Orphans

I  posted this on a forum I found the other morning, it was in response to the topic of  caregivers, who have lost both their parents, and now feel like adult orphans.

My father passed away in 1969, I was 17. For the past 4 1/2 years, I was my mom’s full-time caregiver as she advanced through the stages of dementia. She passed away the 16th of last month. It is a peculiar feeling to no longer have at least one parent here, even one that did not define what a parent actually is because of an illness, but none the less they were still your parent, and still present.

I have spent all this time quite isolated and alone as I have cared for her. My husband has been the only real constant help or support, but he had to be gone most of the time to work. I had no help from brother(s), both sisters died years ago.  Now, with mom gone, and my new life, or is it my old life, is unfolding each day, I am feeling more alone then before, abandoned even by the hospice people who didn’t even offer grief support counseling.

I have done, and continue to do, a lot of writing since 2006. I have 3 blog sites I work on about caregiving, during and after it, 3 twitter accounts, a facebook, I am involved with another caregiving website, and I have my own Blog Talk Radio show on caregiving, so these things have been my “salvation” through the years of caregiving.

They help to keep my busy now too, but there is a gap, a incompleteness, a void, in my day, my moments of the day.  Their is so little offered or even written about life after caregiving. A fish out of water? A fish swimming up stream, against the current?

It is a struggle each day no matter how I try to define it. Going places, doing things with my husband or others, foreign to me, hard to relax, hard to enjoy them. In the back of my mind is always, I have to get back, have to do this, have to do that…for mom. Hard to reprogram! So, I continue to write, to blog to share, just like I have been doing these past years, but can’t find that place in it all that really helps me enter into my new life with strength and confidence…at least not yet.

Footnote:  I have been thinking about the adult orphan term and how the thoughts and feelings that it brings to me, are intertwined with those that grew as a result of my years as a caregiver, and now with those of the after caregiving life.  It is quite a complex bag. Denise asked me Thursday during our grief support chat session on here, which is easiest to eliminate, that is when I said they intertwine. I really don’t know how to separate them. There appears to be separate healing processes to go through for each one.

Categories: Donna W's Blog

51s Comments

  1. When my mother died 11 years ago, I realized then that I was an adult orphan. I am an only child and I also took care of my Mom who was battling pancreatic cancer. It was hard for me to get used to not calling or visiting my Mom everyday. Even today I say, “I need to tell my Mom about that”. I don’t think you ever get over that thought of being an orphan, but I take it a day at a time even after all these years. While taking care of my husband with dementia I often think that I am again in that place of being the sole caretaker of someone and it brings back the memories of being with my Mom.

  2. I’m also an adult orphan. Lost my Dad 5 years ago. My Mom 3 years ago. Both passed suddenly. I feel rudderless and alone. The feeling of loss is so great. No more history. I never thought this is how it would turn out. Have two sisters, one is detached and moving away, never to look back. My other sister has so many health problems, that every day, I wait for the other shoe to drop. I’m all she has. I just want to be able to cope.

  3. Right now I am part of the sandwich generation, and I find myself anxious and afraid of the inevitable transition to become an adult orphan. It’s good to know that this is a real problem, and not just my problem.

  4. Hello,
    I lost both of my parents while in my teens. My guardian family responsible for taking care of me let go of any parental care of me as soon as I turned 18 years old because I am not of any familial relation to them. So I have had no family for quite a long time.
    I would like to join an active online support group for adult orphans. Could you possibly recommmend any to me.
    Kind regards,

    • Hello Laura, I would also like to join a support group for adult orphans. You did’nt mention your age. You lost your parents very young? Me, I’m now 51.I was wondering if you grew up and started your own family. I have a daughter. Last week for the end of school year, her chorus group put on a concert. The theme was a tribute to grandparents.The twinges of sadness never goes away.

    • I am also in the same boat. I lost both my parents while still in my teens, and while I have an extended family, I am beginning to feel the ramifications of becoming an adult orphan quite a lot these days. I am feeling more and more distant, and due to many deaths in my family my siblings and I shut our emotions away from each other. So while I do have some family, I am very much struggling with the sense of loss now, 10 years later. I feel like I need some sort of support system, who I feel can understand my feeling of loss and hopelessness.

  5. I see that this post is old but I want to thank you for writing it. I’m 33 and my last parent died last summer too. I was my Dad’s caregiver for 4 years and I feel the same way you do regarding a loss of someone to care for. I also feel more alone than I ever did before in a way that I can’t even describe. I’m here googling “adult orphan” when I should be studying for a final because these feelings hit at the most random and inappropriate times. I was curious if others felt the same way and I guess they do. At my age, I don’t know many other adult orphans. It’s hard to explain how strange it feels to people who still have parents.

  6. Hi. wishing peace for each of you. I’m 52, my mother died two weeks ago. My father died a year ago. They weren’t married, stepmom died 5 years ago. Was caretaker for both parents. I feel rudderless & alone as you said…I know it’s soon, and will take time, but am really a wreck right now. Grateful that my parents lived until their 70’s but still feel so alone

  7. making another comment after reading your blog entry…so so sorry to hear that Hospice didn’t offer additional support. I’m in the midwest and the Hospice services here have been outstanding. They will continue to offer support for 13 months. Bereavement counseling, support groups and many kinds of help available~

  8. Thank you all for commenting. I do not get to this site too often now, or my blogsites. I am doing well since mom has past. It has taken time. I do not glance too long at her photos as her blue eyes still can make me cry, and I miss her more at those moments. I had to step away from all things pertaining to caregiving in order to begin any kind of healing. The loss and empty spot is always here with me, always will be, but I had to mend and move on to the next chapter of my life. Which, at no surprise to most, has been to once again be a caregiver. I am working for an agency doing homecare and I care for a 97 year old woman. I have grown very close to her and she to me in a short period of time. She helps to fill that void I have with mom being gone, someone I can once again care for as I did for mom these past years. There are not alot of sites available for Adult Orphans. I did start a blogsite for us but I haven’t entered anything for awhile as I had to step away from that site too. Now I am busy with my new job and not much free time to blog like I used to. I would be glad to email with any of you if you’d like. We always need to have someone who understands what we are dealing with, not to be alone in our thoughts and emotions. I wish you all well, and do get in touch with me if you want to. :)

  9. I would like a support group. My mom was 54 and I was 28 when she died of cancer. I am an only child and my father and I have only a most superficial relationship. Since I was married and divorced and never had children I have been abandoned by relatives that I don’t fit in with and I am feeling very alone. Donna, please feel free to email me.

    • I’d love to find a support group with others like me. I always feel so alone with this, everyone I know, still has their parents, and extended family. It sounds crazy, but in August, I’m already getting the painfull twinges thinking of the holidays. Everyone knows I don’t have family. Maybe its my paranoia, but I feel like everyone knows I’m sad and alone, even though I mask it. This emptiness is always there. I accept it, but just can’t get past it.

      • Hi Sue, I see that you wrote this an entire year ago, and perhaps never get on this site anymore, but my heart went out to you in regards to feeling paranoid about the holidays…they can be an incredibly difficult time, hearing co-workers, etc., talking about their family get togethers, and all the happiness and good cheer that others have. When I was a child I used to walk at night, home from my job, and look at houses lit up with yellow lamplight, and imagine what it would be like to live in one of those homes, with people who loved me…(this after my Mom died and Dad abandoned us). The holidays are just an extension of that. I wanted to say that I hope you made it through last year okay, and as we’re approaching another season I hope that things go well for you there too. Feel free to e-mail me if you ever need to talk, and best wishes.

  10. Thank you for writing, although my parents have not passed on in death, they have been physically and emotionally absent since childhood, Dad abandoned me after divorce, Mom neglected me and had a good time… I went to work at 10. My family (self, husband and 3 children) is going through an incredibly difficult time – 2 children have chronic illnesses, I am their caregiver. Every time someone states, ‘family’ ‘ask your parents’ my heart sinks. I was the unwanted product of an unwanted marriage- the ‘gap, uncompleteness and void’ you write of, strikes me. Sending positive thoughts your way

    • Jacqueline, every time I read a new post I feel inspired to comment…yours touched me in regards to the feeling of abandonment. I perhaps do not fit the technical definition of an orphan, as my “father” is still alive, but he has refused to see me all but a handful of times since I was ten years old, perhaps 15 hours total in all that time. Now, for the past 15, he refuses even that, but has made it clear that he wishes me to stop trying. It is very difficult, when as a small girl I really loved my Dad and thought he loved me. I feel for you in regards to having parents who really don’t want you…it is a horrible feeling, and even though you know, intellectually, that it’s their problem, not yours, you can’t help but feel like maybe you’re just not good enough, deep down. Ugh. Also I see you have two children with chronic illnesses, how heartbreaking. I hope it’s nothing too severe and that they’re perhaps better. You definitely have a lot of burdens, and I feel for you…please just know that others care, and you’re not alone.

  11. I’ve read the other posts and believe this group may offer some respite for my grief over losing both my parents. My father died a year and a half ago after suffering a massive stroke. I was in graduate school out of state and flew home for his last week in a coma. He never recovered consciousness. I watched him die, holding his warm, strong hands. My mother died when I was 9 years old, an unexpected result of a routine surgical procedure. I watched her waste away, but was spared the horrific end by my father. My father was my only advocate in this life, a man who deeply cared for me and went above and beyond in his call of being a father and a parent. He remarried a year after Mom died so I have a living stepmother. Still, his death is significant for many reasons. As an adult orphan, I find it hard to navigate being a parent now without my father’s loving advice to see me through the hard times. My wife has her own issues and is unavailable for grieving. My children are too young to understand or offer solace from the pain. I miss my father very much and have not had much time to just stop life long enough to properly lay his loss to rest. I love to write and hope to do more in the future as I continue putting one foot in front of the other. That’s all I can do right now, the simple task of walking through grief.

  12. Wesley, I’m sorry for the loss of both of your parents. I also lost both of my parents (12 years ago I lost my mom and last year my dad died) and currently care for my disabled brother. This is a wonderful site for support and it’s a great step you’re taking to seek help for your grief. Denise also has created another site which may help you too. Please take care and keep us posted on how you’re doing.

  13. Katelin Hoffman

    Hi, I was in an orphanage as a child and spent my teens in a residential group home. I basically grew up alone and have only recently been really feeling alone and how hard it is not to belong. I am looking for others and how we can help eachother and how others have been helped. Thanks, Katie

    • Hi Katelin, I can’t imagine having no roots whatsoever, as you do, and I feel for you…please feel free to e-mail me if you wish, would definitely converse and be happy to make a new friend! Hope you’re doing well.

  14. Is there a term for outliving not only your parents but your sibiling as well? I’ve been in that odd state since my brother died last year and I’m feeling particularly unmoored with the holidays approaching. (In fact, I’m a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and am writing an article about this for Thanksgiving week. If you are in this category and would be willing to share your thoughts in an interview, please email me at Thank you)

  15. I appreciate the comments from all of you. I have not done very much with my blogging since mom passed away. I went back to work, and I am a private hire caregiver. I am doing what I know I should be doing, although my son keeps trying to get me back into retail! I miss mom all the time but taking care of my special lady has really helped me to get through the rough times since mom passed, and keep on going. I hope that each of you will find that special someone or purpose to fill up that empty place in your heart and life left by a parent(s) passing.

  16. Like so many other people, I guess I have often wondered whether anyone else shared my thoughts. Since finding this site, I now realize that I am not alone i thinking of myself as an orphan.

    I lost my father 20 years ago – he passed suddenly from a massive stroke. My mother passed away last November after suffering from Alzheimer’s diseass for several years. I saw her about two weeks before she left, and there were still fleeting glimpses of recognition. She was relatively healthy physically, although had lost considerable weight as her appetite dwindled.

    I live in another state, and when I was notified by a sister that Ma had suddenly gone rapidly downhill and become unresponsive, made plans to travel there but did not make it in time. The wake and funeral was endured via adrenaline only. I can’t believe that she is gone, although in many ways she had left us years ago via her disease.

    I’m sure there are many out there who come from dysfunctional families, and mine is without a doubt one of them. There are over 50 years of hard feelings and resentments that were cultivated, ironically, by my mother and, in a passive-aggressive manner, my father. Two sisters who were Ma’s primary caregivers, as they lived close by, rebuffed all attempts to assist with her care, and then complained that no one helped them. I made a point of cleaning out Ma’s condo, organizing all of her belongings and family memorabilia, and was told that all I did was get “rid of a bunch of junk”. Visited several times a year, whenever possible, took Ma out when she could go, ended up cleaning out her room at the facility after she passed away. Of course, a brother who lives on the West Coast visited very rarely, another brother rejected her completely, but they are without fault.

    How do you cope with, on one hand, having wonderful, cherished memories of a mother and family from your early childhood, yet struggling with the pain and rejection that emerged later? I feel that the only thing I can carry forward, and mourn, was my life and connection to my parents until I was only about 5 years old. I feel like a little, sad child looking for my parents, calling out for my mother, lost, but I am an adult in my 50’s whose siblings have nothing to do with most of the others. I am physically an adult orphan, but emotionally a child, if that makes much sense.

    I am writing this imagining that somewhere, someone else is going through a similar situation, and perhaps we can help each other understand how to get through this. Right now I am just lost. I am sorry if my post is lengthy and sounds self-indulgent, but I tried my best.

    • Hi Louise, my heart feels for you, reading your post. I definitely understand about being a grown woman, yet feeling like a very small girl inside. I do have siblings but we hardly ever see each other, which I’m sure is a consequence of our mother’s dying and our father’s giving us up. Dysfunctional to say the least. I found my brother several years ago (on the internet), and finally saved enough money to travel over a 1000 miles to visit him last summer. It was such a disappointment, as it obviously meant nothing to him…he never took a single picture of me and my children, yet he is constantly posting pictures of his dogs and co-workers on Facebook. Talk about a slap in the face. My sister doesn’t want contact either…so my only family is my children, and I do praise God for them, but of course the lack of parents and siblings does affect me. Mainly the feeling of rejection…and as you say, trying to reconcile that with the good memories too. I am sorry for all you’re going through, and hope that the pain is somewhat lessened…not sure what to say except I, and I’m sure many, many others, do understand. Hugs!

  17. Hi everyone,

    I am quite late to the party, but still found these comments interesting. I identify with all of this very deeply. Without echoing all that has been said, I would like to pose a question:

    So, what do we do now?

    What do we all need to DO ABOUT the circumstance we find ourselves in? Is there a course of action to take? Yes it’s disturbing to carry these feelings. But I think we all operate better when we have something ahead to look forward to. (or at least when we THINK we can see something ahead)

    I think this is what ‘really’ distresses us; not so much hand-wringing about what has ALREADY happened, but confused about what to expect FROM NOW ON. Bygones are bygones, and I am not a grudge holder. I am not bitter about my circumstances. But I DO GET VERY down when I can’t figure out what to do about any of it, which way to turn, why I can’t seem to change my status.

    I do not wanna die alone. Yet that looks like what I am headed for. And in the culture of today, when selfishness reigns completely it seems, others will follow suit with me in coming years but they just can’t see it yet. They will, in time. (I feel there will be more and more and more isolation as time wears on and as selfishness deteriorates more and more of people’s ability to genuinely like or love others, or hold a solid connection.)

    So, what to do? Do I just sit here in this chair every night after work and wait to grow old and die? (I am mid-40s btw)


    • Hi Lance, I read your comments and I totally know how you feel in regards to what do we DO now? I wish I knew…it is so difficult to make new friends at this stage in the game, particularly when you feel strange in comparison to others, and let’s face facts, have a very unusual life in comparison to most. I do agree, however, that we need to pull ourselves out of this, and not let being an orphan be an albatross around our necks…just not sure how to go about that. One thing to say you need a change, another thing to accomplish that. I am hoping that things are better for you in the few months since you’ve written, just wanted to say I do understand, and best wishes to you.

  18. Hi Lance – the day you wrote this my mother died. It was a terriable death to watch in hospice. I am an only grown child with an only child and a husband for 25 years. Right now my pain is so raw and my feelings of abandonment are strong. I cry everyday an have been just going with the motions. It will be 4 weeks tomorrow that she went to that better place,but I too feel alone without my mother who had been my only parent. The dynamics have changes and the phone calls are none from her. I told her that if she dies that I would be miserable…she said she didn’t want to go and that it would take her at least a year to recover! I told her not to close her eye and that we would talk and that we did for hours! I said mom If you see the light when you go to sleep….RUN THE OTHER WAY! And we kept talking. Mom did not fall asleep and die, she was given oral morphine and that was a horrible way to go with such a struggle and horrible to see…my beautiful mother not able to take a breath. For now I grieve and have no idea what my emotional future holds. Maybe just time…

    • hi ILENE,

      I am sorry for your loss. I know that things will never be the same. Accept my condolences.

      I sometimes wonder what will come of everyone. I suspect that many people ‘out there’ are making beds they will rue sleeping in down the road. But by then it’s too late.

      I feel that the family and loved ones we cherish are the most important thing we have, and I also feel like many people take that for granted. I think that self-centeredness has taken over many individual’s thinking. This is a sad state of affairs. For this reason the feeling of isolation and despondency will spread (I predict) into epidemic proportions in coming years. Why? Because our culture has cultivated this, that’s why.

      It seems like nobody cares about anyone else, to me, and the main focus of life now (generally) is PLEASURE SEEKING. That is certainly true of the young people. Sad truth is it is a road to nowhere. As I said, isolation and regret.

      Then of course there are some circumstances we can’t control, like your recent loss. My heart goes out to you for your loss.

  19. Thank u Lance for your quick reply….but why do I cry all the time and when will it stop? I will never stop missing her, but realize that at some point everyone’s mother dies and it’s my time to cry over a loss so great. But never ever should it be the other way around. Imagine if our great grandmothers were still alive…no that would be downright unusual…but I never imagined the pain and never could be prepared. I
    Almost 50 years old and I feel like I’m 5. My mother and I were close and we lived 2 miles away. 25 phone calls a day….just for no reason. And now in a blink of an eye she’s was gone. But her mind was alert and bright and she would never give up. But the pneumonia got her as well as the antibiotic that tried so hard to help her :( and I asked God why I was the one to see my mother in pain and why she just couldn’t get up from that bed an why and why and why….but I realized then that it was a great honor…no one she said was better than me to take care of her in the hospital….and no one else knew to put whipped cream over a cold glass of chocalate ensure. An honor and a blessing to have been able to be with her and take care of her when she needed me the most….and so I mourn the loss of my dear confident and friend. You know…I used to be afraid of death….it’s not my turn right now and I have a family and still things to do, but when that time comes…I’ll welcome it because I know she Will be there for me on the other side….but gee I miss her something awful.

  20. Hi to all of you from an adult orphan from faraway Poland. I’m glad to have found this site although reading your heart-wrenching stories brought tears to my eyes. I know the feeling so well. I lost all of my relatives, my Dad passed away in May 1997 (cancer), my Mom in September 2010 (cancer) and my maternal Grandmother that I was close to in May 2012 (heart disease, cancer, stroke and old age as she was 96). I had been very close to my parents, they were my true friends and I feel it’s so unfair that they died before they grew really old, to top it all, suffering from the most horrific illness possible that is cancer. Neither of them smoke, drunk or led an unhealthy life; I tried to be a good daughter and yet it’s like I’d been punished. They didn’t deserve such painful deaths, either. I am in my mid-40s now, I was my Mom’s caregiver and I often think that I’ve been to hell and I haven’t come back yet – I accompanied my Mom in her battle from the diagnosis, through five hospitals and to her last breath – she died in my arms. Losing my beloved Dad to cancer was already a horrible trauma and I hadn’t expected it might happen again in my family. I was put on medication after she died but obviously it didn’t fill the void. Earlier this year my Grandma died and all those demons came back. I’ve given up those antidepressants, in fact I had no time to go to the doctor in spring when my Grandma was ill and dying and somehow I’m carrying on with my life – but what life is that? My colleagues keep telling me all those cliches “don’t give up”, “get a grip on yourself”, “it’s gonna get better” but who has not experienced this, will never understand you. Everyone I know has some family – sometimes I feel as if I were the only person in the world (at least of my age) who has absolutely no relatives left – and the funny thing is they can’t believe me I’m all alone. I went to a meeting of a support group when my Mom died but it was a mistake – I met a bunch of elderly ladies, older than my parents there, grieving their husbands. Don’t get me wrong but I felt odd there – all of them had children, friends and they were from a totally different generation. When I read what Lance wrote above: “So, what to do? Do I just sit here in this chair every night after work and wait to grow old and die?”, it sounds so familiar. I do go to work (I’m a high-school teacher of English; I used to like my job very much but now it hurts every now and then when I think of how carefree and still naive those kids are – I guess I must be jealous that they still have their life ahead of them and they have someone to return home to), deal with everyday chores, look after my cat and dog but a huge part of myself has died, my plans, ambitions, dreams, last but not least, identity. I devoted – if not sacrificed – my life to my parents and I feel so betrayed now. Old friends have either left me – as if mourning and pain were contagious – or they have their own lives with their families. To top it all, it’s hard to find new friends when you are past your twenties, let alone in your forties, especially when you seem so awkward to the rest of the society being some sort of Robinson Crusoe only with his faithful animals, minus Man Friday :). And – it must sound blasphemous to Americans who are so religious – I do not find any comfort in religion as seeing my parents die a slow and painful death, I lost my faith in anything good, fair and comforting on this planet.
    Hugs to all of you!

  21. Hello to all,

    I too am an adult orphan. I lost my mother when I was 9 and my father 3 1/2 years ago. When my father died, (relatively peacefully while I was holding his hand and stroking his cheek), the priest who gave him last rites turned to me and said, “Welcome to the orphans club”. I did not realize the implications of what he said until after the funeral and once I was back in New York facing my life without him. I have tried to accept what has become the new normal for me, but the struggle continues. I was recently rejected by my stepfamily and now feel truly alone. I am a 44 year old single gay man without children and my only remaining relative is my brother who is a high functioning person with Asperger Syndrome. He has very limited social skills and does not respond to phone calls, e-mails or texts, so he is essentially out of the picture. I think the hardest part of all of this is living without love in my life. My father was a very loving man with whom I had a very close relationship. I realized once he was gone that no one in my life will ever love me the way he did. I took that unconditional love for granted and now that it’s gone I feel devastated and empty. Like Lance I ask myself what’s next. Will I end up alone and sad? Will I live the rest of my life throwing a pity party for myself? I really don’t want that to happen. I think what it really comes down to is that I have to make a life for myself that includes as much love as I can find. Before my father died he told me he was worried about me once he was gone because I was alone. I told him not to worry about me, but 3 1/2 years later I realize he was right to be worried. I’m not sure how, but I have to figure out some way to find a “family” for myself in this world where I can find the love and acceptance I miss so much. To all of you adult orphans out there – don’t give up. I won’t stop trying to find a family for myself and neither should you.

    • Hi Tim, your letter was heartbreaking to read, how well you described how I feel, and doubtless many others. Being an orphan is a very tough thing, and not having that love that you describe so well is something that affects you on a daily basis. I remember when I was 12, and a girl patted me on the shoulder as she walked by. I sat, frozen, almost wanting to cry, because no one had touched me for so long. I had no one to get over the loss of two parents with, and this one human touch meant so much. I feel for you, feeling so truly alone, and without that love…I wish I knew exactly how to find family. I am extremely fortunate in that I do have children, that make my life worth living, but I still do miss having parents too. I hope that you will be successful in your hunt for family, no matter what form that takes, and know that you are not fully alone, as there are many of us in the same situation, and even online we can be there for each other. Take care of yourself, and good luck!

  22. Thank-you for this website. I am seriously considering starting a support group in my area for adult orphans…I found one online, that I was going to perhaps base my group off of, but it was for those who are “recently orphaned”. I am definitely not recently orphaned, in fact I have been for 39 years, since I was ten. My Mom died suddenly of a brain aneurysm, and my Dad did not want to raise us, and he refuses any contact to this day. I try not to let this stuff bother me, and most days I do great, but it is there, in the back of my mind…I have much difficulty in making friends, and feeling worthy of another’s friendship and caring. It took me years to realize that I was in fact a competent, kind, intelligent adult, and my Dad’s decision has nothing to do with me. Still, it’s hard. I do think that other people in this situation might benefit also from having a group, to meet like minded people, and support each other. It seems like the holidays are an especially difficult time, and perhaps we could be there for each other then. Of course, I realize that at a certain age almost everyone becomes an orphan, but there is of course a difference when you lose a parent long before they should have died or left you. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this except to ask if others, who have lost parents young, feel the same, and also if they think a support group would be something they would benefit from, and utilize, or if I should give up that idea as being too out there. Thanks much, and best wishes to you all!!

  23. Glad to finally see a term for it, “Adult Orphan.” Have been estranged from my whole family in a progressive way. The root of the estrangement happened when I was six years old, and it grew and grew over time. By the time I was 13 I was a de facto orphan experiencing utter and absolute emotional indifference from all of my family, out to my cousins, out to friends of my family. I was an unofficial pariah.

    In public and “officially” they loved me. But there was no warmth, no support, no encouragement. Only indifference. What is the opposite of love? It is not hate. Hate is angry love. No, it is indifference. Love was just a word, a noise, like the whistling wind.

    The reason it was as such, I figured out over time, is because their reason for ostracizing and estranging me was invalid. If it had been a valid reason, their un-love would have been public. But, it was based on the machinations of my older sister…and they knew this. However, she was “more valuable” in terms of financial success and family leadership and prestige, and so they protected her at my expense.

    Though they divorced me at an early age, it took me painful decades to divorce them in return. So, I remained attached to a family that was not attached to me. Now I am in my 50’s and seeking my own extended family. Perhaps in others who can appreciate the pain of estrangement.

    • Hi Richard, read your post and I know what you mean regarding family that seems to orphan you because they just don’t care. My real mother did love me a lot, but my adoptive family, that adopted me after she died suddenly (of a brain aneurysm), did not at all. We were never given the slightest bit of comfort from losing our mother and our father giving us away…they were horrible, mean, abusive people, that treated us like dirt, but in public they were model parents. Used to make me absolutely sick. Small wonder that neither I nor my brother have spoken with her for twenty years…(he died of cancer when I was 16, used to truly feel that I was tainted, and made people die…awful feeling that it took me years to get over). I hope that things improve for you, and I know it’s cliche, and extremely hard to realize, but it’s THEIR loss, and they are the ones who obviously have mental problems. How you could turn your back on your child is incomprehensible. I hope that you find a “family” soon, one thing I’ve learned through all this is that flesh and blood doesn’t matter, it’s caring for others and love that makes a family. Good luck!!

  24. I am an adult orphan. I typed in the phrase and was surprised that anything popped up. I lost my father, who was a jerk that I never really knew, in March 2009. My mother passed away ago a little over a year ago in August 2011. My step-dad is kicking us all out in a few months and I’m afraid to be an orphan. No one seems to want to hire. I have no time to grief let alone work enough to support me, two siblings and three cats. I miss my mother so much. She’s the only one I could go to for the real things and it hurts. I want to scream and cry and I am just so mad I don’t know what to do.

  25. Btw, I was 22 when I lost my dad. 23 when I lost my mother. Now I just turned 25. It’s a terrible feeling.

    • Wow Devin, that sounds horrible having to support yourself and two siblings too! How old are they? What a situation. I hope and pray that you will be able to find a good job soon…I’d definitely see what kind of aid you can get asap. Surely there will be something for the kids at least that will be a cushion for you. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for you to not only be their caregiver, but to have to support them through their grief when you have no one to turn to yourself. I know from my own experience how horrible that can be. Hope that things improve for you soon, please know that others are thinking of you.

  26. Jennifer Patalsky

    I am an adult child of single alcoholic mother who passed from pancreatic disease this past April 2012. I can’t even say how utterly alone I feel right now, and I can sympathize with those who also have to deal with such a thing. Where does one seek out support? Therapy (which I’ve been in since I was 14) is in place but I’d like to befriend others who can understand. Thanks.

  27. father died 1973 ,mother still alive, both cronic alcohics mother cold cruel on and off hardly speaking for
    52 years i am 59 . mother has fathered 5 kids with 3 fathers the last father was proscuted for my sisters
    kids as a sex offender ,they are still together after 35 years , this is a mess , i have been treated badly,
    no famly support at all for any thing , i feel alone ,depressed ,unwanted a lot of the time ,i think i set myself
    up to falter at times, my last girlfriend of 10 years chose her mental retarded 28 year old alcohic son over me once again i feel abandoned left out althought it has been 5 months i still love her it is a struggle to not go back
    other 3 siblings in family are suported except me and my older sister who is gone,with no will,sick my mother inherated all her $200,000 by luck and the law ,they had not spoke in 10 years. end greg

  28. I happened upon this forum when I typed in the words “adult orphan” and reading these heartfelt and heartbreaking posts, I can truly relate and empathize with each and evry one of you. I’m a 51 year old gay male who lost my beloved mother to strokes and heart attacks in August of 1984. I was 22 years old. She and I were very close, and I have never recovered from her passing. My father passed away in November of 1993 when I was 32 years old. Growing up, he and I were not close, but I’m so thankful that I spent every day with him at the hospital before he passed from cancer. I’m also thankful that I hugged him, kissed him, and told him that I loved him very much.
    He was a decent, good man, and the endless regrets I feel and think about not reaching out to him while growing up, about not spending more time with him and my mother while I was a teen and young adult permeate my being. I often awake in the middle of the night with pangs of loneliness, deep regret, and a longing to return to a past that has vanished. Like all of you, I can’t go home again. My parents are no longer here, and since they both passed I feel as if I’ve never had a real home all these years, as weird as that may sound.

    That said, since his passing, I have felt lost, utterly alone, and adrift. I have four siblings; one older sister and three brothers, and I’m sad to say that following my mother’s death, we really began to drift apart. My father’s death created a deep fracture in our family that has never healed. While I have a few close friends, I have always felt so utterly abandoned and alone. I miss my parents each and every day, and like all of you, the stinging pain of realizing nobody will ever love me as intensely and as unconditionally. I am trying to reconnect with my older sister, who is responsive and willing to mend fences. My brothers are another story. I ache for the loss of my brothers, and there is a huge void in my life where they and my parents are concerned.

    I live alone, have never been in a relationship, and at 51 I am so very fearful of being alone for the rest of my life, and dying alone. I think of my parents every day, and sometimes memories I call upon – happy memories of my youth and them – are too painful to keep in my mind for the very fact that they belong to another me; another life. Memories that bless and burn. Orphan is the right term. Part of me feels like a lost and desolate 12 year old boy who longs for his mom and dad. I know there is no “closure” per se; the pain of their not being on this earth is always present, just below the surface. A song, a photograph, and especially an aroma/smell can trigger my memories and grief at any time. I so wish I had recorded my parents’ voices when they were alive. There are times when I’m fearful of forgetting what their voices sounded like. I wish that I could sit down with them at age 51 and have the deeper, more meaningful and loving conversations with them that were not quite “there” when I was 22 and 32.

    I am so tired of feeling saddened and lost and lonely. I too wish I could create my own family. Of my parents, all I have left are photographs of their smiling faces that can no longer speak; can no longer convey love and acceptance of me. I will grieve for them and my “lost” brothers until the day I pass away. There are many times when I’m so lonely that I wish I could be with them over there.

    Anyway, apologies for the long post. I send my sincere condolences to each and every one of you here. I feel and share your pain.


    • Hi John –
      I see you write in Christmas Day and the holidays are a tough time. I know, we all know how our memories of this day can make us sad because of those not with us to share the joy with us. I think the word I like to use is “stinks” yes it stinks! I cried yesterday for my mother who is in heaven. For me it’s been 7 months since my mothers death. And everyday I cry, and everyday I’m sad and no one knows exactly how I am, or no one really cares. I’m supposed to “get on with it” so I smile through my pain, I wear a mask. “They say”, whoever “they” are, that the holidays are the worst – but over the years I’ve come to realize that holidays are not for everyone one big Norman Rockwell painting of happy families sitting around a big table with lots of people and papa Is carving a turkey! What I know is that friends can become family, and while even friends, the good ones can be far and few, a friend or two, while they can not replace family, can be very comforting during the holidays and in daily life. This is the way I look at it because I have no other choice. I can’t bring my mother back or any other relatives that passed. All you need is one good friend. You know I was was in the supermarket the other day and there were older ladies in their late 70’s and 80’s shopping – and I looked at them one by one, slowed down by age and ailments, but oh how strong they are, these woman who experienced death of loved ones and how rich they really are -they are the survivors and they stand tall and go on. Bug hugs to you John xo it gets better I think :)

      • Hi llene,

        Thank you for your heartfelt reply. My sincere condolences to you over your loss. You’re right, we do wear masks when out in public. I’m sorry yesterday was hard for you. Indeed, adults are expected to grieve quickly, and move on. How narrow-minded and short-sighted society can be, not to mention insensitive. Yes, Christmas is tough, very tough for me, you, and countless others.

        As mentioned, I am blessed with a few close friends, and I cherish them, yet all of their parents are still alive. They surely are there for me at times, but they don’t comprehend the ongoing sense of sadness and loss I feel – certainly not blaming them here – it’s just the way it is.

        Your comment about seeing elderly women at the supermarket struck a chord with me. I too watch elderly men and women, who appear to be alone, and wonder what goes through their minds, as the majority of them have long lost their parents, some or all of their siblings, spouses, etc. I observe them with an element of admiration and fear. Indeed, they seem to soldier on, and I feel chills when I realize one day I will be their age, and how will I cope and manage. What unfathomable pain and sorrow these elderly carry in their hearts and minds.

        We are our parents’ children all of our lives, for better or worse.

        Big hug right back at you.


        • John – I think that this is just what it is – maybe a life lesson? A growing experience? Wisdom? Learning to have more compassion for others? I think we may not like everything about getting older but I think as we get older there probably is this kind of acceptance of what happens, what is inevitable and also an opportunity to choose to understand that life is for the living and to enjoy everyday. And I know in my heart of hearts that this kind of forum is great to express that little child inside of me longing for my “mommy” this forum is goof to share our “before we go to sleep” thoughts, the ones we mask during the day. May this give you and all others a little smile and I get it, we all get it – nothing lasts forever, you’re not alone, and live your life – funny – but when my mom died I said “when your mom dies, the one person you need to have is your mom….at least to call on the phone”, there are no words to express the loss – but there is nothing you or I or anyone can do about it! I guess this is how life is – nothing is forever – enjoy every moment – one day and believe me I’m not religious, but I believe we will see them again. They are just in a place we can’t go to right now. Xo

          • llene, I found your reply to me above very, very comforting and wise. Thank you for that. I too am not a religious guy in the conventional sense, but I firmly believe in the survival of the soul upon the death of the physical body – the shell. I firmly believe that there does exist a realm of spirit, not heaven as organized religion teaches and describes, yet one of immense serenity and profound beauty, where souls reside once departing the Earth.

            I have read a lot of books about near death experiences (NDEs), deathbed visitations from those family members and friends who have already crossed over, and accounts of those in spirit form communicating with loved ones who are still on the Earth in incarante form. Dr. Raymond Moody and Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross pioneered this fascinating field of study, and their books make for wonderful and comforting reading. The human body may cease to live, yet the soul, and love, are eternal. I can’t prove it from a scientific standpoint, but in my heart I know this to be true.

            I believe our parents and other loved ones do attempt to communicate with us, through dreams, thoughts, and physical actions. I will later tell you of the most wonderful and extremely comforting communication to me from my mom, which involved roses.

            Again, llene, your words are wise. Yes, we do go on, we have our lives to live, and while it is painful our parents are no longer here, we can take comfort in the fact that they are safely “home” and that, agreed, we will see them again.

            I’m sending you a dozen yellow roses over the internet, llene.


  29. You are adorable John – I give you back a big New York City smile – because the gift of death is a lesson in love – and John my dear, you are a treasure! I’m sure both your parents are smiling down from heaven – for you have touched the heart of another – and have lightened my sorrow. To know you exist somewhere….but not right here in my physical presence …is like a gift from heaven
    BTW – after mom died I did contact a medium – and it was so real and believable for an hour and 20 minutes of her time with me – so I do believe (because I told my mother before her death that I was going to contact a medium) she does exist – they all exist – and I know the signs and believe you me I understand! You made my day a lot brighter – you’re a good man! Oh the roses are beautiful!

    • My dear llene, New York City gal, you made me blush and smile…all the way from cold and snowy Toronto, Canada. I am so glad I lightened your heart. Yes, the “death” of our loved ones – their souls taking leave of us (temporarily) and this world is a lesson in courage, strength, and ultimate happiness for us. As hard as the days may be, when your heart is heavy, you feel lost and abandoned, when you feel nobody can comprehend your pain, know that this separation from our parents shall end the day our souls depart for our true home. So many near death experience accounts from so many highlight the overpowering emotional joy and bliss when their souls approached the “boundary” of the spirit world, and came upon the spiritual energy of their “deceased” mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, and even their great and great great granparents – souls they never met while on Earth, yet the familial bond of love was as potently displayed as that of their parents.

      I’m glad you had that positive experience with the Medium. Even though we just know and feel our beloved parents are still very much alive, we remain Earthbound physical beings, subject to the pain and loss every now and then, or for prolonged periods. We must look into our hearts and realize and remember the cosmic truth…they’re still alive, yet elsewhere.

      Don’t feel alone, llene. I and many, many others walk the same path as you. As mentioned, the souls of our loved ones do attempt communication with us many times. We sometimes miss the signals of their communication, but they try and try again!

      Let me tell you of a wonderful communication from my beloved mother to me, which happened twelve years ago, on Mothers Day. I was invited to the home of a close female friend to have dinner with her and her mother on Mothers Day. Her mom is still on this Earth, and they are very close. My friend picked me up to drive me to their home, and along the way I asked her to stop at a florists so I could purchase some roses for her mom for Mothers Day. We stopped at the florists, went inside, and I selected twelve salmon coloured roses. As the florist was wrapping the roses, I mentioned to my friend how much my own mom LOVED roses, and how she lovingly tended her rose garden when she was on Earth. I watched the woman handle the twelve salmon roses, and then focused my energy on the roses themselves. In my mind, I said the same words over and over again, “Mom, I love you. I love you and I miss you so much. These roses are for you as well. Happy Mothers Day, Mom.” I repeated these words at least five or six times.

      We drove to my friend’s home, where I greeted her mom and presented her with the twelve roses, still buds, not yet bloomed. Her mom was thrilled. We had a wonderful meal and time together, and her mom placed the roses in a vase of water and placed them on the dining room table where we ate dinner. Afterwards, I took a taxi home a few hours later. Getting into bed that night, I again wished my mom a happy Mothers Day.

      A week later, this same friend called me to chat. I mentioned to her it was nice having dinner with her and her mom. At that point, she said to me, “I keep forgetting to tell you this. Those roses you gave my mom, there’s something really strange going on with them”. Curious, I asked her to elaborate. She told me that the next morning, all twelve of those rosebuds fully bloomed, and that each rose was huge…about the size of a man’s two fists put together. She also said when she and her mom came downstairs, the entire first floor of their home was filled with the overpowering scent of the twelve salmon roses. At that point, I knew, I just KNEW it was my mom’s energy. It didn’t end there. Later I learned from my friend that ALL TWELVE roses remained in full bloom for five weeks…five weeks, and during the course of those five weeks, not one petal fell off any of the roses. I told my friend that I believed it was my mom’s spiritual energy sending love to me, and she told her mom, who slowly nodded. Her mom was absolutely mystified as to how large the roses bloomed, how quickly they bloomed, and their staying fresh for the five week period. I cried after learning about the fate of these roses…but they were tears of supreme comfort and joy.

      I have NO doubt that my mom communicated with me through those roses. She loved roses all of her life while here, and it was the perfect earthly object, or objects, by which to send her spiritual energy to.

      Love, llene, never dies. Sleep warm and tight, and may your own beloved mother come to you in your dreams and wrap you in her love.

      Goodnight, New York City gal. Big hug from Toronto!


  30. I lost my mom to cancer 5 years ago when I was 20. As an only child and my mom being my only parent, it has been very difficult. I especially feel all alone and like there are no other people like me who are also orphans with no immediate family. I am looking for new friends and support.


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