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.

Leave a Reply

51 Comments on "Adult Orphans"

Sep 18, 2010

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.

Sep 23, 2010

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.

Jun 27, 2013

hope you are coping well sue

Nov 15, 2010

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.

Jan 24, 2011

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,

May 20, 2011

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.

Sep 19, 2012

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.

Mar 15, 2011

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.