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The Orphaned Adult

“When the second parent dies, the rest of adulthood begins.”

One might presume that as a psychologist, Dr. Levy might be more prepared for some of life’s events than the rest of us. Perhaps he thought that himself. No one was more surprised than he at how he felt after the death of his second parent.

“There is a sudden awareness of no longer being someone’s child, which brings with it a loss of childhood altogether. Feeling adult. . . . brings the chilling knowledge that there is now no one between us and death.”

The depth of his grief was expected. The difference in the feeling of loss was not.

Although he knew that a death can dismantle a relationship, Levy was surprised when his marriage fell apart. Many relationships change after a huge event because you yourself change. Friends with whom one has been close for nearly a lifetime can be the first to fall away during trauma and death. Though a natural occurrence, this adds to the grief. The few that stick with you are precious indeed.

When Levy looked for reading material on the subject of parental death, he was appalled at the paucity of work on the subject. The question is posed: “Can it be that we value youth so much that the lives and deaths of older people decrease in social value?” The death of a loved one is “A blow to our understanding of our big and powerful, Masters of the Universe selves.”

So for the past couple of years, Levy has been asking other orphaned adults what they have experienced. The information he has amassed will go a long way towards helping the rest of us. It also sheds quite a bit of light on the parent/child relationship which one doesn’t think about until the parents are gone. He shares this treasure trove freely. Hard questions are not avoided, such as what if you really don’t miss the deceased? Odd moments are told, like wondering to whom the leftovers now belong, and who will give him permission to eat them?

Perhaps the most valuable insight is that “grief encourages us to re-examine the priorities by which we have been living.” There is a huge identity reorganization, which may account for what we often call midlife crisis. One may now actually be able to clarify what they will be when they grow up! This is also a time to lose the label given you by family, which has haunted you into adulthood. But are you ready for that?

Grieving or not, evaluations of one’s life should be done at regular intervals anyway. Reading this book if you have lost one or all of your parents can help you make sense of what has happened to you since. It is especially recommended to read if your parent(s) are still living. We have the benefit of others’ experience, encouraging us to make the best of the time remaining.
The book also gives practical advice for getting through the grief process and reclaiming your life. It includes some outstanding poetry.

The Orphaned Adult is a must read for anyone over 21. If we all read it, our communities could be closer to

Shalom.

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