Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

I am What I Chose to Become

Date: 
Monday, August 27, 2012
Posted By: 
Janine Grandsart

Today, we welcome guest writer, Janine Grandsart, who lost her father when she was 16 years old.  Janine works for liQuidprint, the web development company that created and hosts CYWC's website.  She shares with us today about her personal experience of losing a parent.  Thanks, Janine!

The Chicagoland Young Widowed Connection (CYWC) is an organization that is very dear to my heart.  While I am not a widow, I am here to offer a perspective that addresses a significant concern widows have…the effect losing a parent has on their children.

Losing a parent at any age is traumatic.   However, I can only speak from experience about what it was like for me as a teenager. I was 16 years old when my father died.  It is one of the more difficult ages to lose a parent. Mainly because that is the time children start to rebel and fight for independence, which causes guilt to form.

I have struggled with this a lot.  Millions of questions tormented me on a daily basis. Why did I have to act like such a brat? Why didn’t I listen to him more? Did he know I really loved him? I am not going to sugarcoat this for you…the pain this caused me was almost too much to bear at times.

Luckily for me, writing is one of my many passions and I used it to cope. I wrote my father’s eulogy and even won a contest with a poem I wrote about him. Something as simple as journaling can help your child face their fears and feelings.

Another thing that really helped me was the bond that developed with friends of mine who also lost parents.   It sort of connected us in a tragic way as kindred spirits.  15 years later, I still have strong relationships with these friends. This can be taken a step further with an organized support group. I think schools should form these for children who have lost parents.  However, if your child’s school does not offer this, any kind of support group will do.

Now the question plaguing every widow’s mind…Is losing a parent going to ruin your child’s life?

It impacts everyone differently, but there’s no getting around the fact that it will change who they are forever. So much of how this is going to affect your child depends on the choices they make.  The death of a parent can make them feel alone, which is one of the worst feelings of all. It can lead to very destructive behavior.  So get them talking and keep them talking. This will help keep them on the right path.

For me, losing my father made me grow up at a very young age. It made me see the world differently, without rose-colored glasses.   I remember feeling numb for a very long time. On the other hand, it gave me strength and knowledge beyond my years. I find that I am better equipped to deal with a crisis because I know I’ve already survived worse.

There’s a quote from psychologist Carl Jung that has become sort of a personal motto, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become.” We deal with all sorts of losses in our lives, but they are not what define us.  Hopefully, that will bring you and your children as much comfort as it has for me.

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