Parentless for the holidays: A daughter’s story

By Jillian Blackwell

I will say I have more good days than bad days without even realizing it.  My darkest times are holidays when I have experienced milestones or moments when I just wanted to feel unconditional love. The hardest part for me is feeling lonely and like a piece of me is missing that can’t be replaced by anything or anyone. I have days where I don’t want to hang with friends or family, I just want my mommy or daddy–the people I feel that will love me for me.  I don’t have to change for their love–I can just be Jill, their little baby. It’s funny because when you’re around your parents you don’t think about not having their love because it’s unconsciously natural. When you lose both parents, especially if you are close to both, you take for granted how much they mean and the impact they have on you and who you are.  You don’t have that luxury and that saddens me because I fight with who I am, my identity.

When I lost my mother, I was a senior in High School, close to graduation and soon off to college. I was just becoming a young woman, setting my own path. How I handled it was I didn’t. I was never one for the spotlight or all eyes be on me so I just went on with life each day as if it was a typical day. I went off to college and came home and each day I said, “This is what my life was going to be like,” and I would deal with it as it was dealt. My mom was always a strong woman. She was my best friend. She was my everything. I didn’t have to speak up or protect myself because she was my protector. When she died, however, I had to step it up and make sure everything was taken care of because my backbone was gone. I never got to feel it’s impact–I never had a chance to grieve because I had to be strong. I had to show everyone I would be okay. But I wasn’t okay, I was a young girl who needed her mother, who needed her best friend. I became guarded and was someone who walked around as though everything was okay but I would go home and break down because no matter how much I pretended it didn’t happen, it did. She was not coming back. During this time, I also became closer to my father.

My mother and father were divorced at the time of my mother’s death. The day she died, everyone showed up at my house to tell me my mom had been in an accident and didn’t make it, and my father was there. He drove to the hospital first and then to my house to be with me, and I remember asking where he was and I wanted him. Just him. From that day forward until the day he died, my father became my new best friend. We talked every day, and no matter what I needed he was there. And I wasn’t prepared also to lose him nine years after losing my mother.

It hit me like bricks. What did I do to deserve losing both of my best friends? Am I meant to be here on this earth alone? It feels like a piece of my identity is gone. I always feel as though every person I get close to dies, so I don’t let my guard down or show vulnerability because people leave you.  I know that at some point everyone dies, but I feel like if I don’t get close enough then it won’t hurt when they leave or die, and I can keep living. I’m always afraid of breaking down.

Some of the hardest times are when life gets tough and you just want to lay in momma’s lap or hug daddy and hear them say, “baby, it’s gone be okay.” Or when you want to stop being strong because you know mommy and daddy are going to work it out for you. Some people with living parents also deal with not having a support system, but the difference is with a deceased parent you don’t even get that option. I can’t call my mom and say, “Hey mom, can I come over? I just need a hug.” I learned how to be a woman through trial and error, and just remembering the little things I’ve watched other people do. I’ve been in relationships I shouldn’t have been in just to have some compassion and love. It’s hard when you don’t know how to grieve or are scared to be vulnerable. If you grieve, who’s going to pick you up? Especially when it’s people around you who don’t even know what you’re going through. These are feelings that no matter how long it’s been they don’t go away they just lie dormant and occasionally something triggers them. Sometimes you think if mom or dad were here, we would be doing this or what it would be like if we did that.

One of my darkest times was when I felt like not having either parent meant there was no reason for me to live. I’m ashamed to admit it but, hey, that’s how bad it got. I’ve never felt the need to harm myself but I felt what more did I have to live for or who did I have to live for.  While everyone was planning weddings and other milestones, I’m thinking about how my funeral would be. I felt my two best friends, my worlds, my whole sense of being, were dead and if I died today it would not have mattered because I could see them again. I could have that one moment with them. When my mom died, it was sudden…she went to work one day and right before she was about to clock out, a fatal accident and boom she never came home. I always wanted to just have that last moment with her, to just hear her voice and tell her I love her and hear her say it back.

My father, however, was ill but I was not aware of the extent of his illness until right before he passed. You would think after losing one parent, you wouldn’t take the other parent for granted. Unfortunately, part of me feels like I did because I thought, “Oh no, God wouldn’t do this to me again. He knows how I need my father!” I feel like I didn’t fight hard enough. I didn’t make sure he followed the doctor’s orders. My dad grew internally ill and it progressed quickly, and even though I saw him in the hospital I feel like I never got to tell him goodbye and prepare myself. Once again I didn’t want to believe it nor did I want to deal with it. I needed to prove to everyone else around me that I would be okay but the truth of the matter is I robbed myself of that moment worrying about what everyone else thought. I am better now but I realized I didn’t always have to be okay.

When a parent dies, a piece of you goes with them. Being vulnerable, hurt and sad is fine. And it’s fine to feel alone, but one thing for certain and two things for sure, you are still here for a reason, a purpose, and therefore you had to experience those moments to build the person you are today.

Additionally, because of my parents’ death, I also have a big fear of taking risks. When I was younger before my mother died, I was ambitious. I had all my goals–college, career, and everything else perfectly planned.

After my mom had passed, however, I became cautious in my decision making. I played everything safe because if I made a mistake, I could only depend on me. I do have family and siblings, but when you lose a parent, you realize no one has your back like your parents. You are no one else’s responsibility so make sure you’re good.

With everything I’ve dealt with, I can say I have great family and friends, and if it wasn’t for them just being there, and my faith, I don’t think I could have made it this far. Although you can’t fill the void of losing both parents, your days are a lot easier and happier when you have a good support system. I love reminiscing about my parents and talking about how great they were and the impact they had on others. It makes me feel good to know that even though they are gone, they made an impact while they were here. I also get to learn more about them and find out new things I didn’t know while they were living. I love looking at pictures and thinking about those memories.

I also love meeting other people who have gone through the death of a parent because it’s a feeling you can’t understand unless you’ve lived it. You find out that the feelings you have aren’t so weird after all. I feel comfortable talking about it, and it helps with the healing process. Keeping the deaths bottled up inside makes you feel like you’re the only one who feels this way and bogs you down with all the what ifs.

I miss my parents every day but what I always tell people is my parents lived! My father, more than anyone I know, enjoyed life no matter what the circumstances were. He made the best out of every situation and always said, “I’m going to live my life, baby, because I only get one and I’m going to do what I want.” My father was a real free spirit, and a giving and caring person. Just knowing that not one person I meet has any ill feelings toward him makes my heart smile. My mom was a sweet, down to earth, cool and sassy woman who handled her business.

Both of my parents didn’t take any mess, which is weird because I’m timid. Additionally, the dependence I had on them needed to be relinquished because their purpose had been fulfilled and it was my turn. I am not sure if they were living that I’d be the woman I am today. Although my first college, career and life plans changed, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.  I am not alone because I have faith. I have a higher power telling me my parents’ jobs were done but I am never alone so no matter how much I miss them, I am okay.

We always say, “If my mom died…I wouldn’t make it.” But you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have. I must be the responsible one because my parents entrusted this role to me. I’ve been groomed to be this before I even knew it. So yeah, sometimes I’ll be sad, and I’ll cry, but this is the life I have been blessed with so I will do the best I can with it and continue their legacy.


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7 Responses

  1. Thank you Jill, for sharing your story. Life has a way that allowed you to look back and say, If it was’nt for the grace of God, where would I be. The more you tell your story, the more your Body, Mind and Spirit will heal.

  2. Wow! What a story. May god bless you during this season. Your story truly is touching. We never stop and think about how peoples life experiences affect them

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