Dealing with the loss of your parents…

23 Mar

This is to all parents, but especially to adoptive parents due to the fact that some (perhaps many) start parenting later in life. My hope is that you will consider ensuring that you make the time after you pass for your children as easy as mom and dad have made mine as the one to make sure their collective last wishes are met.

Having end-of-life conversations, while hard, allow the ones left to go through the process easier.

Over the years, we had several end-of-life conversations.  They each had a final end of life conversation with me, when they knew their time was growing very short.  I knew what their wishes were for the end.  It helped, not just with the after but in knowing they were ready and at peace with what would happen.  It made it easier for me.  Being able to follow their wishes made it easier.  It also made the process less painful, the mourning less protracted.

Having a list of those to let know after, would have made it easier even though I knew all those who needed to be informed.

Having to call and speak to everyone near and dear to mom was emotionally draining.  Thankfully, I knew who to call, it would have been easier if I’d had a list, but in my case it was okay.  I would suggest that be part of your process — who you want notified when you pass, a living document you can add or remove from periodically.  Making those phone calls was hard having to retell the events that had unfolded just a few hours before.

Having mom’s wishes arranged, documented, and discussed ahead of time prevented further challenges in an already challenging time.

Dad passed a few years ago.  Mom made the arrangements based on what he’d requested.  What I found out after, is that mom made and paid for her own arrangements, every single aspect of what she wanted done when she died was detailed and coordinated with the proper entities.  All that would be left to me to do was the memorial service, and the obituary, and even then, she’d stated what the memorial could be, and what it couldn’t be.  I can’t begin to tell you how much mom doing that lifted an immense emotional burden from me.  Not only that, it allowed me to know I was respecting her last wishes, and that gave me that power to limit what others wanted, in the name of respecting mom.  It also stopped me second-guessing if my choices were what mom would have wanted.

Not having any questions about their estate left unanswered, helped: I can’t stress that enough.

Dad was open with me about how they had structured their estate.  Dad started talking to me about it somewhere in my tween/teen years.  Knowing how their estate would be divided, who would do what, who to turn to, what was important, and why they decided as they did, has given me the strength and peace of mind in going through the process.  It has given me knowledge to answer questions as they came up.  It guided me in everything I had to do, and will have to do.

Having multiple conversations throughout the years showing both mom’s and dad’s unwavering convictions about their estate helped me immensely knowing what they wanted stood the test of time.  We even talked about if friends or family were upset with the decisions they made.  So many different conversations over a life-time have allowed me to go through this process with grace, knowing I was following their wishes and speaking their words told to me for just that purpose.  It has made a hard time, easier.

Plan for the time immediately after you pass:  How will your bills be paid?  Where are documents stored?  Who has keys and passwords?

For the last several years I’ve helped mom with the paperwork.  She started off needing help understanding the legalese type documents, and having someone to discuss decisions with, which over time, morphed into pretty much doing most of the paperwork.

Power of attorney had been put into place, so at the end when she couldn’t do anything, that helped. What would have been better is being a signatory to the bank account bills were paid out of, as power of attorney ceases at death, and there is a transitory time after when bills are still coming in and auto debits coming out.  I waited too long to start using the POA, or asking more questions about what would happen at the end, because, I didn’t want her to feel her independence was being taken away.  Handing over the reigns would be easier than having to take them. The transition would have been easier if I’d been listed as a signatory all along in addition to the POA.

If you have your will in your safe deposit box, make sure your executor has the right to access the box.

And, while electronics and social media accounts aren’t part of what I had to deal with, remember that in today’s world, passwords need to be known by the person you trust to do what needs doing.  That person needs to be able to get into your computer, shut down social media accounts.  Put this into your plan.

I don’t believe anyone you are close to is truly gone; sometimes they just aren’t physically present anymore.

Another preparation mom and dad unknowingly took, just by being who they were, was talking about death as a normal part of life.  That how and when you died made a difference, whether it was a terribly sad tragedy, all the way to when it is a blessing.  I don’t remember the first time someone dying was talked about.  I know my grandpa passed about the age I went to Kindergarten, so that was probably the first time.  I do know that talking about people passing away was treated as part of life and done in our presence and openly discussed seeing as dad was a doctor.  I also want to state that I do not remember ever worrying they would die as some children do, whether those conversations helped I can’t say, but they didn’t cause those fears in me.

I’d be remiss if I also didn’t speak about how people in your life also impact your day-to-day life.  How your mom and dad shape the very foundations of your moral compass, not just in teaching you right from wrong, but how they lived their lives teaches you how to make choices, where your line in the sand is.  Every decision you make, big or small, you do it because of what you learned from them.  They are still part of you.

I also learned early that the retelling of stories about them kept their memories alive.  When you think about it, every relationship we have is a series of memories, of events you shared.  Telling stories after people pass reminds you they are still part of you, no matter what.  You are shaped by who shared your journey thus far.  Telling family stories matter, even about those long passed.  The stories help shape each person who continues to pass each story down to the next generation, until it is passed down to the one who played a role in shaping you into who you are.

Leaving your affairs without a clearly delineated path to resolution is not the legacy you want to leave your children burdened with – having to make those decisions.  Having many small conversations, helps with what happens after death – how they view your passing, mourn their loss, live their lives.  Viewing death as part of life helped me.



Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Adoption, adoptive parents


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16 responses to “Dealing with the loss of your parents…

  1. Lori Lavender Luz

    March 23, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I have learned so much from this post, and have a more than a few things to think about. Your parents sound like amazing people. Thank you for sharing their wisdom with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mimi

    March 23, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Thank you for this post – sending to my family members.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dannie

    March 23, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Beautiful. I know where all my folks paperwork is, if untimely death and I hope to ease my kids into my stuff as well. Always a good reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cb

    March 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Beautiful post, TAO. I’m not sure what my mum has planned or whether she has money set aside. I have a fair idea what she would want but I suspect it will be my sister who does a lot of the arrangements (being local).

    With my younger, he was very adamant about not wanting a funeral. However, his car racing friends wanted to something for him, so I suggested they have a race or meeting dedicated to him. I came down from where I live to attend it. The only problem was as their meetings are quite long (from midday to late evening), I’d arranged to go in the evening to watch the main memorial race but they had also had a get together at lunchtime to say goodbye. In the end, it was good to see his friends say goodbye. Having said that, I can now see that funerals are more for those who are left to be able say goodbye – there was no sense of finality. Also I’m the only one who went (mum was in hospital and would have gone if possible, however my siblings were not on speaking terms with him (its a long story))

    I also feel that they are not really gone. I feel that my dad and bro are *there* somewhere. Also een though I’ve never met my bmother and bgrandparents, I feel that they are womewhere as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. cb

    March 23, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Btw, mum wanted to be donated to science and contacted her local university but she was told that they didn’t want her – apparently they want healthy bodies (she had had cancer (now fully cured)):

    Looking at this, it doesn’t mentioin cancer but rather infectious diseases. I would be ineligible because I lived in the UK for a year in the mid 1980s (at the height of their CJD scare (I’m not allowed to give blood for that reason as well).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Robyn C

    March 25, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Reblogged this on Holding to the Ground and commented:
    I’m cheating today, and re-blogging a post by TAO. Read this. Send it to your parents, relatives, and friends. Plan for the end of life before it’s too late. Don’t leave your loved ones guessing about what you would have wanted, how to pay your bills, and what all your passwords might be. Death is a natural part of life. It’s OK.


  7. yan

    March 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    My a-dad died when I was in college, so this prompted a lot of discussions and preparations over the years by my a-mom, and more so when her parents died. I think I will hate being in charge of everything when she dies, but at least I know what she wants. I also just found out that my f-mom and her husband want me to be their trustee, as well. Knowing is good.

    The list of who to contact is excellent. I would not have thought of that.


    • TAO

      March 25, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      You’d be surprised how many people need to be notified, and how many think they should be first. I could remember everyone because of the stories told, only one person I couldn’t find in mom’s address book – I remembered the town, not the name. Thankfully she called me when she couldn’t get ahold of mom – because mom had given her my number – just in case.

      For those whose parents don’t tell stories – they will be lost…when you have 8 or 9 decades worth of friendships and places lived…


  8. Mipochka

    March 25, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Very useful. Yeah, please don’t do what my adopted mom did: have an argument and refuse to speak 18 months before your death; move to another city secretly; order the “Sea of Roses” for your funeral (which I, accepting “mom’s arrangements,” barely noticed during the funeral, but definitely when the bill came: 8,000 Euros for these flowers alone). My adoptive mom was abusive, and made her passing a nightmare that left me to discover pretty unspeakable secrets and threw me in a mid-life crisis from which I have not quite emerged (8 years later).


    • TAO

      March 25, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      I’m so sorry…


      • Mipochka

        March 25, 2016 at 2:28 pm

        sorry I sounded so angry (5 minutes later I’m embarrassed for the outburst), and thanks


        • TAO

          March 25, 2016 at 2:43 pm

          I’d be angry to Mipochka…


  9. margaret59

    March 25, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    Oh, this is hard. My parents died when I was very young. Mom when I was 12, Dad when I was 13. I had family who wanted me, but they were not allowed. I was fostered, and I felt like family. I learned, much later, that I was NOT considered family. I don’t know how to say any more. It sucked, I guess.


    • TAO

      March 26, 2016 at 3:16 am

      I’m so sorry Margaret. Hugs…


  10. onewomanschoice

    March 29, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks for this Tao. I was the caregiver for a woman who was a second mother to me who passed away this Easter Sunday. After reading this, I see how she and her children did a very good job of preparing for this day, having those sometimes difficult but neccesary questions, making those hard decisions easier during a difficult time for a family grieving a loss.

    Liked by 1 person


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