Transitioning from being the child to becoming your parent’s caregiver is hard. I’ve heard many people describe the difficulties of this role reversal. But, I think something more profound is happening. By age 50 or so, through raising kids or managing employees most of us have developed a variety of parenting skills. But what sets this role reversal apart is the realization that we may soon lose someone who has defined who we are. The challenge is deciphering what this transition means. Who are we without this important anchor who has given us validation from day one?

When we lose a job or a home we love, it’s hard. But losing a parent holds complicated meaning that can rarely be articulated and is therefore rarely discussed. The impact creates an astounding ripple effect that can either advance or stunt the rest of our life in transformational ways. Parents are expected to die and we, as adults, are expected to accept this fact.

The period between when parents begin to lose their independence and when they pass is a time of suspended emptiness, a growing void waiting to be filled. It’s a time of stillness for which there is no real language or definition. It’s personal and unique to each of us.

Some avoid the recognition of such a crossroads. Others embrace it as an agent of transformation that opens our heart to a new self. The power of grief makes us feel connected and somehow guides us forward.

Our purpose is to discover why we are here. The question arises when we find ourselves untethered and must either face life from a place of weakness or manage to summon strength to develop further. This decision determines who you will become from that point forward and what, if anything, you pass on.

We can honor our loved ones by channeling our grief and exploring the intersection where our passion and service to the world cross. It’s a lonely journey and one that no one can do for us. It’s in this realization that we can fulfill our own dreams because we are not disconnected, islands. We’re all pieces of a bigger puzzle. Finding our unique place in that puzzle brings peace, belonging and progress.

When we see those few boxes that contain our loved one’s life after they are gone, it’s an awakening to the transience of the material world. Our things can’t possibly define our legacy. I believe it’s our responsibility and privilege to search out our destiny. I believe the loss of someone who has been so integral to who we have become is the final impetus, allowing us to realize who we were meant to be. How apropos that that invitation comes from those who made our being here possible as a final goodbye wish, that we find our place, our talent…our meaning.

 

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