March 04, 2015

Reflections of An Adult Orphan by Alan Anderson

The term “adult orphan” may not be a familiar one to many people.  Some know what it feels like, know what it means and realize it is a term that redefines one’s place in the world and in your family.  It may be looked at as a rite of passage just like the birth of one’s first child or such things as graduating from school and entering the work force.  An adult orphan is a label we may use for ourselves after both our parents have died.

In my case my dad died in 2002 and mom died seven years ago this week.  I miss them both everyday. In many cases adult orphans take on a role their parents once held, that of a senior member of one’s clan or family.  The people you may have turned to for their opinion or insight or support are now gone.  The younger members of your family turn to you now for such things.

As I reflect on life as an adult orphan I do so with a sense of poignancy, longing and much joy.  When my father died it was a surreal time in my life and was new emotional territory for me.  When my mother died so did a gentleness and security I had experienced throughout my life that I would never experience again this side of heaven.

When I became an adult orphan something perhaps I took for granted when I was younger came to light.  I didn’t always have a deep love for my father as I did my mother.  As time went on and I gained a level of maturity I came to accept that I would love my dad for who he was.  My mother was always easy to love.

As my parents older years caught up with them I also appreciated them more as dearly loved people.  The commandment to “Honour your father and mother…”
(Ex. 21:12) took on a poignancy I never considered before.  As their health declined and death came I also felt the reality of the fact if we love deeply we will also grieve deeply.

My parents weren’t perfect and neither did they ever claim to be.  As I reflect on what they taught me about life I have come to appreciate that not being perfect is okay, in fact, it is typical of us all.  We are however to take our responsibilities, such as being parents, very seriously and with loving devotion to our children.

Today as an experienced adult orphan I live with great thanks to God for giving me my parents.  I recognize I have similarities to both of them in me.  I am aware I can be opinionated like my dad but without his intensity.  I also recognize I have some of my mom’s characteristics that soften my personality and allow me to have an empathy for other people.

Many times when I am writing I sense closeness to my parents.  This prompts a longing in me to see them again.  As an adult orphan who is attempting to be a writer I try to honour my parents through a sense of vulnerability, transparency and stark truth.  This evokes a deep joy within me for I know my parents would be proud of each word I write.

My dear writer friends, I pray God’s direction and blessing on you.  I’m sure your parents are proud of you.  I know I am!

Alan' personal Blog:


  1. Alan, you say, "I try to honour my parents through a sense of vulnerability, transparency and stark truth."

    This vulnerability and transparency are frightening to many writers. The further age takes us from the intensity of the experiences, the safer it is to explore those truths. You have come to that season, and I appreciate the honesty in your post. Having lost both my parents in the past year, and feeling nothing but relief - for them and for me - brings your words home in my own life.

  2. It's always so fascinating to me how our feelings about our parents take so many different forms over the course of our lives.

  3. Thanks, Alan, for your thoughts on being orphaned when our parents die. I remember that feeling of being orphaned--we four sisters all agreed that was our sense of it--when our parents passed away two weeks apart in 1998.

    Fortunately, we can remind ourselves that God passed on a message through Isaiah saying that even if a mother with a baby at her breast could forget the child she'd borne, He, God, would not forget any of us, because He had engraved us on the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:15) In John 14:18, we read Christ's words, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

    Sometimes I get the feeling that my parents our looking out for us, even now. Won't we have a lot to talk about when we reunite in heaven! Thanks for making me think of all this.

  4. Alan, you have given such an honorable tribute to your parents. Thanks so much for sharing this difficult time with us and may you take joy in increasing measure as you remember, honor and love them.


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