It was the perfect summer evening in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We were dining al fresco. A cool wind was blowing and I had a delicious cocktail in my hand. My husband, daughter, and son were content.

I was content.

Life was good.

Suddenly, a loaded question from my 6-year-old son snapped me back to reality.

“Mommy, are you sad that both your parents died?’ he asked.

Initially startled, I had no idea of what to say. However, Owen was smart to ask. I was 45-years-old and the recent death of my father had left me with no parents.

Maybe life wasn’t so good all the time.

In September of 1997, my mother was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer. My mom was my very best friend. Witnessing the amount of pain she endured was nothing short of unbearable.

“Why?” I always asked.

My mom was perfect in so many ways. An amazing caregiver, devoted school teacher, and fabulous person-she was loved by so many.

My mom was only 55-years-old when she was diagnosed. Less than two years later, the horrible demon would take her away from us.

Forever.

I was 25-years-old at the time and filled with anger and bitterness. I wasn’t so sure I would be able to survive without her.

Somehow, I did. Toward the end of her illness, I met a wonderful man who would later become my husband. Together, we had children.

Life went on despite my horrific loss.

I was also blessed to have my father.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, I began to face a new reality.

He didn’t have much time.

I would soon become a parentless daughter.

When he passed away a year later, it was the new painful truth.

As a woman entering mid-life, I know the drill. You are expected to outlive your parents. There will come a time when you have to say goodbye.

Thus, the circle of life.

While it may seem uncomfortable to think about at a very young age, all of us know there will inevitably be a time to bury our parents.

Still, it doesn’t make the process any easier.

Whenever I hear a juicy news story, I feel the urge to pick up the phone. My dad, always feisty, would be glad to give me an earful. Most of that had to do with him always being right (err, stubborn).

When I start getting into a new series on Netflix or pick up a great book, I immediately think of how much my mom would have enjoyed them.

A lot of my friends still have both of their parents. I would be lying if I said I don’t envy them.

And then there are the kids.

My own children.

They will be missing out, too.

Going forward, birthdays, graduations, and weddings will have a noticeable absence.

And there is absolutely nothing I can do about that.

My grandparents died when I was quite young, as well. I was obviously sad for myself, but it is only now I can truly understand how my parents felt.

And it’s awful.

However, dwelling on their deaths is an impossibility. Although I often feel paralyzed by grief, I can not let it consume me.

My kids are waiting.

They are waiting to be fed.

They are waiting to be helped.

They are waiting to be loved.

They need me, as I need them too. They are my saviors in many ways—allowing me to smile through the tears.

Experiencing this stage of life makes me appreciate my parents even greater. Parenting through grief is not an easy process. I now understand this firsthand.

My kids know I am sad. They are sad, too. However, they also know they will continue to be taken care of for as long as my husband and I live. Unfortunately, there will be a time when my husband and I will pass away, and our kids will experience sadness again.

Still, they will get through it.

They will share the memories.

They will treasure the moments.

They will be.

And that is the all I could possibly hope for.

You may also like:

To Those Who Know the Bitter Hurt of Losing a Parent

Even Though You’re In Heaven, Your Grandchildren Will Know You

When a Parent Dies, Part of Your Heart Will Always Be Broken

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Kathleen Sullivan

I am a freelance writer and full-time mom. My work has appeared on: The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode xoJane, Parentco., Mommyish and Your Tango. I can also be found blogging at: http://www.threekidsonehusbandandabottleofwine.com/

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