There are few blessings associated with being an orphan and not really having family. For the most part, it sucks on so many levels, I won’t even begin to describe it. Life is much harder when you’re alone. Let’s just say that.
I’ve struggled to find a silver lining, but–being me–I always look for one. One of the few silver linings is that I don’t really have anyone left to lose. Well, I have people–but none of those people who define your life for you or people who are your touchstones. If anything, my experience with friends these past several years has taught me that people don’t stick around–no matter how wonderful they are–and that I have to just accept who’s here now and love them for as long as I can.
I’ve gotten most of my suffering out of the way–which is incredibly freeing, but also heartbreaking and hard to even fathom. Life can only get better, and that’s a big relief. But it’s also kind of a burden.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy. Having lost both of my parents by the time I was 26, I’m a pioneer in my circle of friends. I was the first to lose people and had very little support from anyone. You’re not supposed to lose your Mama when you’re 26. You’re supposed to have a quarter life crisis about your shitty job. You’re supposed to sleep with crappy people and drink too much. At 26, I was fighting with insurance companies and comforting cardiovascular surgeons traumatized over losing my Mama. Let’s just say young adulthood wasn’t all that normal for me. In fact, my life has never been carefree in any imaginable form.
As my friends get older, and their parents get older, more of them are experiencing some of the things I’ve experienced for most of my life, for the first time. I had a lot of time to get okay with my reality. By and large, my friends haven’t. So, often, I see them pulled into the depths of parents being sick and then sometimes dying.
The initiation into this club seems much harder for them than me. I had some tools. I understood what could happen. So, I often feel like I need to be their guide. Like I need to help them. Both for them and me. I try to be the first to reach out. I try to listen and give them space. I try to share my experiences and help them cope. But–honestly–you never really get used to it.
Right after my Mama died, one of my co-workers/friends lost her dad to heart disease. I tried my best to be there for her, and it was a source of true bonding for us. I think I really helped her. But it ripped me a new one. It was all so fresh. I really felt like I needed to be there for her, though, so I sucked it up and dealt with my shit. Mostly, because I remember how hard it was for me. How people I thought would always be there disappeared and suddenly had nothing to say.
It’s not as difficult as it used to be. But it does still take a conscious effort to not go down depression lane. Anything can trip that wire, so I’m careful to take care of myself before offering my support. I always say something, though I can get a little analytical (which isn’t entirely helpful–mostly because I’m trying to help them prepare). And since I went through all of it myself, I know when things need preparation and what shit can knock you on your ass. But then, I have to be careful because my experience isn’t theirs.
It’s still hard for me to let people be. I feel so helpless. Like I just want to scoop them up and fix it. But I know I can’t. And I can see things coming, but I can’t warn them because…truthfully…they often aren’t there yet. It makes me protective, but part of this whole thing is realizing what’s yours and what isn’t. And just acknowledging you can’t help. And that really sucks when you’re someone like me.
It’s odd to be the person on the other side. The one with the war wounds who can guide people and maybe help them heal. It feels odd mostly because I still feel like I need saving.
But it’s also kind of an honor to be there for people. Even if I have no idea how to begin. I have a feeling I’ll feel like this a lot when I’m a therapist.