Q In the last six years I have lost both of my parents and a few aunts and uncles. At first it was very painful to lose them. I talked a lot about the feelings I had about not having parents anymore. Throughout my life I have sought mentors and parental figures to help me with major decisions such as college, job, relationships, spiritual practice, travel and other things. They really helped, however, I was still very connected to my parents. Although they couldn’t understand many of my needs, I wanted their approval and support. This year I feel very different. I don’t think of them in the same way and when I visit my living aunts or uncles, I don’t expect as much. I feel freer. However this also feels new and a bit strange. At times I feel guilty that I am not grieving anymore and am actually enjoying some of the freedom and lack of responsibility. I would like to understand more of what is going on with me?
A Sounds like you’ve grown emotionally since your parents died. At first there is a feeling of being orphaned since the familiar support of mom and dad has disappeared. We know ourselves so much through our identities as children of our parents. When that mold breaks, at least through the loss of their physical presence, we feel disoriented, alone, afraid and confused. Allowing yourself the freedom to experience the range of feelings and finding ways to express them is very healthy. It will probably help you come to a new place.
We all need parents and parental figures to support us in the early years of our lives, to help us navigate through life’s major passages. As we grieve their loss, if we accept what they gave us and let go of our disappointments, a new ground will begin to rise. You’re actually experiencing your adulthood in a more mature, grounded and personal way. This might be the first time in your life that you feel this kind of freedom and strength. Ultimately no other person can know you as well as you know yourself. Your inner intuitive guide will start to become stronger without the supporting figures of your parents. As you become more intimate with your own self, you’ll start to feel some excitement and experience a sense of possibility.
Your unfolding as a creative person will go deeper and have more space at this juncture of your life. You will notice details of your emotional wants. You have been conditioned by your family to think and act a certain way and now you and can choose to rely on that training or find newer ways of being yourself. It’s a time when you can incorporate the emerging values based on your growth and upbringing. As you continue this journey, your inner being will respond to your relationships and you will live life on your own terms and find your inner truth and creativity.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D. is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. (650)325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com.