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Orphaned at Middle Age; The Death of One's Last Parent is Among Adulthood's Most Unsettling -- If Least Recognized -- Transitions
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Families & family life; Death & dying; Middle age; Grief; Parents & parenting
Author: Huget, Jennifer
Date: Nov 25, 2003
Start Page: F.01
Section: HEALTH TAB

[Jane Brooks] and [Alexander Levy], middle-aged people who had themselves recently lost their last parent, try to help readers understand the unfamiliar emotions and circumstances that sudden parentlessness stirs: heightened awareness of their own mortality, shifting relationships among remaining family, sadness over the loss of a trusted adviser -- and, sometimes, a sense of unprecedented freedom and new beginnings.

[Paul Rousseau]'s experience highlights the primal, universal nature of the adult orphan phenomenon. As Levy explains, the extent of adult orphans' pain isn't necessarily related to the depth of their relationship with their parents.

[Leigh Oberholzer] says that her mother had for several years used the same tablecloth at Thanksgiving; everyone attending the feast would write notes about what they were thankful for right on the cloth. Now that Oberholzer's sister has assumed the role of Thanksgiving host, Oberholzer says, "My first thought is, 'Is she going to use it?' And my second thought is, 'I don't think I can stand to see it. It's still too sad.' "

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