For an adult, the role of your parent in your life changes greatly from when you were a child. As a child, you depended on them for everything-food, shelter, clothing, guidance and love. As an adult, you don’t rely on your parents to care for your basic needs any longer; but their role in your life is more as a consultant than a direct care giver.
Per Wikipedia, Consulting Guru Peter Block defines a consultant “as someone who has influence over an individual or group, or organization, but who has no direct authority to implement changes.” In the consulting role in our lives, our parents use their life experience and life skills to give us advice. They work with us to help us to find solutions to the problems in our lives, by gathering information about the situation and by providing historical data about us and our lives.
Often, I can remember discussing a problem that I was having at work or with my son, and my mother would relate a similar story that happened earlier in my life. She would discuss how I handled the situation then and the results. This information would always allow me to develop a strategy and a plan of action. Or she would remind me my son’s behavior that I was complaining about was something that I too did as a child and that I turned out okay. For me, one of the most valuable contributions that my mother made to my adult life was keeping me grounded in the events of my past. It is difficult to know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been.
Within the last 12 months, I lost both my mother and my grandmother, and one of the hardest things for me to deal with in these losses is the feeling that there is no one to validate my past.
In addition to being the consultant of my life, my mother was the historian for our extended family, so she was the one to remember everyone’s birthday, anniversaries ect… She was also the story teller. How embarrassing it would be when she would talk about how as a toddler, I would sit in the Living Room with everyone on my pot because I was so proud of my accomplishment of learning to go to the bathroom “like a big girl”. Or how as a toddler, my brother would “steal” any loose change that was lying around and put it in his piggy bank. Oh how I long to hear these stories now.
In the past, if I ever had a question about when something in my life happened I would call my mother and she and my grandmother could always tell me the when, where and how of the event. They were like the investigative reports of my life. So the fact that I am unable to call either of them now to relive my past causes an intense pain that only a person who has lost a parent can understand.
I expressed this sense of lost to my husband and he suggested that I honor my mother’s life and our past together by writing a book about her. At first, I wasn’t really able to do it; but, with his continued “reminders” I sat down one day and started. It was a bit painful at the beginning of the process; but, as I just allowed myself to sit there and just remember and type, it became very therapeutic for me. Instead of focusing on what I had lost, I was able to focus on the infinite wisdom and love my mother gave to me. My feelings of sorry and pity have been replaced with gratitude and love for the time and love that both my mother and grandmother gave to me.
Even if you are not a “writer” there are other ways to honor and celebrate your past with your parent. Below are some suggestions of other ways to do this.
• Create your Family Tree-research your family’s history
o You can use websites like Ancestory.com or the public library in most major cities have workshops and assistance to help you to research your family’s history. This process will allow you to get a better understanding of your history and of yourself.
• Organize your family’s pictures and create photo albums or scrapbook
o There are a ton of websites like Snapfish.com, Mixbook.com and Shutterfly.com where you can scan and download pictures and create to photo books. This would be a great project to remember the good times of your life by pulling out all of the old photos, get them organized and made into a beautiful binder. This will also be a great keepsake for your children and will keep your parent’s memory alive in their hearts as well.
• Paint a picture
o If you are an artist, you can paint a picture of your parent. You can use your imagination or you can re-create your favorite photograph of your parent.
If none of these suggestions work for you, that’s okay. But please take the time and try to think of a way that you can remember and honor the memory of your parent, so that you too can turn your grief into gratitude.