Here I am sixty years old, without parents, without accountability to anyone but myself, staring at mortality and a member of the orphan club.

This is a club I or others do not aspire to belong. There is no age limit, no occupation restrictions, no ethnic or gender requirements, no time limit, and you do not choose to join this club. Your membership is virtue of your parent(s) dying.
It is a silent club. Members do not know that they belong to this club, there are no scheduled meetings, and members may not know each other or they may not know one another. Grief is the common attribute among its members.

We don’t have many opportunities to talk about our grief, no formal means of expressing our grief, and nowhere to channel the grief. How do we release the deep pain of losing our parent(s)?

In order to help my fellow orphan club members, I recommend the following:

• Write down the things you treasure about your parent(s)—memories, sayings, occasions
• Compile your family photos and put them in a CD/DVD and share them with your siblings, children and other family members
• Create a blog in parent(s) memory so family members can post their comments
• Record your thoughts
• Develop an oral history of your family
• Create a family album of life remembrances

My goal is to let orphan club members know that they are not alone and that we all need to express our grief. Grief is like a slinky toy. We keep bouncing between the rings in the spiral, bouncing between the stages of grief. Our level of grief comes and goes.

Some of us grieve every day, some grieve whenever a certain memory arises, and some bury their grief deep within themselves. However we choose to grieve, we need to give ourselves permission that it is not only all right to grieve, but necessary to our well being.

Hopefully one or all of my above recommendations will assist you in managing your grief. The pain felt in losing one’s parent is dulled by time but is still forever present in our souls. Belonging to the orphan club does not ease the pain; however, it demonstrates the fact that there are many members who feel the same way you do. You are not alone, you are a member of the orphan club!

Author's Bio: 

Annette Gonzalez is a lifelong Floridian and was raised in West Tampa, a Latin neighborhood in Tampa. As a child, she was nurtured in this environment and it affected her path toward her affection for her cultural roots and her affection for her family. West Tampa deeply influenced her desire to be a writer, speaker and storyteller.

Annette's professional background includes positions as a social worker, real estate salesperson, business owner, education director at a PBS station, president of a chamber of commerce and director of business development at an educational association.

In September 2006, when Annette struggled in coping with the loss of her mother, she began to experience the need to fill the emptiness in her heart and began documenting her feelings. Five months later, her father passed away and she embarked on a serious introspective on her purpose in life. This is when she began to write and speak about her parents’ deaths and how it impacted her. What was revealed was that Annette provided others who had lost their parents comfort and direction through her workshops, writings and speaking.
Annette believes that we need to treasure our parents while they are alive and when they have passed. Her book, Orphan at 60, is her parent’s legacy to Annette’s children and grandchildren.