The Emptiness Of Being Parentless

by Maryam
(Nigeria)

My father passed away when I was eight, and I have always found support and love from my eldest brother and mum.

My brother then passed away too, and left me with my mother. She passed on two weeks ago and it hurts so badly. Memories of her fills up the whole house. I feel terribly empty.



She was the one person I relied on emotionally for love, strength and friendship. We spoke countless times daily, we played as best friends. She loved me deeply and truly.

It is particularly hard, as I am single, jobless, and facing a lot of challenges. Prayers have been my only alternative to being strong but I miss her. Each time I visit their graves, I feel a sense of peace and strength. Yet, it crosses my mind to dig up and have a last look at their faces and maybe hear a word. But my religion forbids such.

I am so so afraid of what lies ahead.

Thankfully I have a loving family, nieces and nephew. But I am convinced they can never replace the vacuum in me.

How do I cope amidst my realities--the harshness of life and my loss?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Maryam, and thanks for telling your story here. It is clear that your losses are great, and that your pain is deep. I will offer what help I can here, but I encourage you to seek help in your community. Perhaps your church could offer counseling, or your local mental health center? There may be grief recovery groups in your area...ask around and find out what is available.

Here are some things you can do which might help. Your grief is complex, and you may or may not be able to do these exercises on your own without guidance from a grief counselor.

Follow all of the recommended exercises on our stages of grief page. Also, follow these guidelines for letting go:

1) Write down all of the ways in which you are like your mum. Look at that list and ask yourself if there's any of those qualities or behaviors you want to keep. In other words, choose what you like from the list.

2) Then write down all of the ways you are different from your mum. These are the things that make you unique as an individual. Look at this list, and choose what you like from it.

3) Make a third list, that includes only those things you like from the above two lists.

4) Next, picture your mum and your brother in front of you. Thank them both for all of the good things they've done for you, leaving nothing out. Then tell them both about the things you didn't like. Get it all out, and write it down--but picture their faces while you're writing. Now tell them, "I'm not your responsibility any more. I'm a grown woman, and I take total responsibility for myself. It is time for me to take charge of my life and make my own decisions, without your influence." Then, when you feel a sigh of relief in your body, say "Goodbye" to them and let their images fade.

Believe in yourself, Maryam. You get to choose, moment by moment what kind of person you're going to be, and these exercises will help you make the right choices, again and again until it becomes second nature--because it is your first nature.

I suggest you consider getting a copy of these self esteem CDs, in order to start loving yourself and creating a good life for yourself.

The process you're going through is painful, but necessary Maryam. Everyone has to face the challenge of letting go and taking responsibility for themselves at some point in life.

You can do this. Believe in yourself, and your good heart.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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