Webhealing.com Articles

An Orphan at 29

Traci Krawchuk

Death is one of the only things you can count on 100% in life. It happens to all of us at one point or another, for a number of different reasons, yet it is always so difficult on those left behind who must grieve your loss because they loved you, cared for you, knew you, or were impacted somehow by your being a part of their life. There is no “easy death”. But the death of parents, especially when you are very close to them is very difficult, and the death of a parent when you are young is even harder.

When I was 14 years old, I flew down to Florida to stay with my father, for what turned out to be my last summer with him. As I walked through the airport, I was met by my whole family. My father hugged me tighter than he ever had and I asked him how he was. His response: “I am sick, honey.”

“Do you have a cold or something?” I asked…remember I was 14, the concept of my father being ill enough to die at my age and his was not something that even entered my mind. And then he dropped the biggest bomb on me I had ever experienced next to the bomb “We are getting divorced” when he and my mother separated 3 years earlier.

“No sweetie, I have cancer.” He said quietly in my ear.

My mind reeled, my body went numb, and my heart sank into my feet. How could this be? How could this be happening to him? To me? What would I do without him? Although we had never been terribly close growing up, I felt an instant desire to never leave his side…until he was gone that is.

I stayed with him that summer, holding him when he would cry, worrying if I would ever see him again, wanting to stay with him but missing my mother and my home at the same time. I returned to Wisconsin to go back to school at the end of summer. And in March I got the 3 phone calls that changed my life. Keep in mind that I never got calls from my sisters and brother who also lived in Florida close to my father. And all in one day they all called, my brother being the last and I finally asked “How bad is it?...do I need to come down there now?”

He finally said “Get here as soon as you can Traci.”

So my brother and sister who lived in Wisconsin and I all piled in her car and drove 24 hour straight through to get there, and arrived to late to go to visit our father in the hospital. So we ate, showered, and went to bed. My family woke me at 5 a.m. the next morning to tell me that he has just passed away.

The guilt over not staying with him the summer before, to be there for and with him until we died stayed with me for another 13 years. I buried it along with my grief, as I had no way of dealing with am emotion so much bigger than I was at the time.

Move forward in time to age 29. I had moved to Canada, away from my family in the states as I had met a Canadian man whom I married. My mother had been ill with what was diagnosed as diabetes, but later after changing doctors and obtaining medical help from one of the world’s largest and most respected medical facilities, was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure due to kidney cancer. After many bouts of dialysis, medication and diet changes, surgeries to take out the cancerous kidney, shunts being put in and taken out, she was very tired, worn out, and essentially felt as though her life was a matter of existing. During her last stay in the hospital, she came down with the flu, and as a result of coughing so much, she burst a blood vessel in her groin, which bled internally to the point that she looked like she was pregnant.

This caused great pain and discomfort, but they finally located the vessel that was bleeding, performed a dangerous surgery to insert a high grade stainless steel coil which would essentially twist the vessel and stop the bleeding. The dangerous part was the fact that her blood had become so thin due to blood thinners she had been put on to assist with the clotting problems she had been having during the shunt surgery in her chest which would aid in the dialysis process down the road. So essentially, during the surgery, she could bleed to death. Within hours of the surgery, her color had come back so she didn’t look so ashen, and was no longer on her death bed.

She recovered beautifully from that point, and after a few months began to start living her life again. Getting her hair done, going to the store, out for walks and her general outlook and personality seemed to improve. Or so I thought. Her roommate later told me of the numerous times she had taken my mother to the hospital in the middle of the night with chest pains, where she refused EKG’s or any type of assistance to find out why she was having the pains. She was also given nitro-glycerine pills, which we found in her bedside table…unused.

4 months after her surgery to insert the spring, she had a massive heart attack during dialysis due to a large blood clot. She was my best friend, the person who had been there for me through thick and thin, never let me down, always loved me unconditionally, and now she too, like my father was gone.

It hit me like a ton of bricks shortly after she passed and I was back home in Canada…I was now an orphan. I didn’t belong to anyone anymore. The grief of losing both parents, especially when you never properly deal with the death of the first one, is so immense it threatens to consume every part of your being.

This does not mean that losing one person close to you isn’t difficult, as the death of anyone we love or care for is devastating in its own right, but when the foundation that you were built on, the two people who brought you to this world are gone, you suddenly feel a huge sense of “being totally alone” even when you are surrounded by many others who love you, be that a spouse, mate, children, family, or friends…none of them can replace your parents.

I recall trying to build relationships with others who were “parental” figures in order to regain that feeling of having a foundation…but nothing seemed to work, and finally at the age of 29 I not only had to deal with the hidden grief of losing my father, I now had to deal with the loss of my mother and best friend…and I had to do it alone because no one else seemed to understand the concept of feeling as if you didn’t belong to anyone. And I had to begin to build my own foundation, and realized that in doing so, I must teach my children to build theirs as well to ensure that when the day comes that they lose both of their parents, they will not feel so lost, alone, and like they too have become orphans.

My heart to goes out to anyone who has lost someone they love. But especially to those who have lost both of their parents, their foundations, their pillars.

Traci Krawchuk September 24, 2004


About the Author

Traci Krawchuk

I am a 33 year old American turned Canadian Landed Immigrant who continually seeks to improve myself both emotionally and spiritually in order to achieve a more satisifying life. I have found a great deal of peace in meditation, yoga, and reading in order to free myself from the grips of grief over the years and highly recommend that other try these forms of "relaxation" in order to move past the tears and pain. My mother always taught me that "you can only do so much with what you have when you have it...and if you don't have it, they aren't gettin' it." I realize now that unless I have self respect, self healing abilities, and practice self nurturing, that there is no way I will be any good to anyone else in this life, so I have pulled up my boot strapps and learned to give myself more so I can be more for others.

Traci Krawchuk can be reached at Traci Krawchuk.