What it's like to be an orphan at 18


Parents The last few weeks I have grabbed a magazine and trotted off to the train station after work. It has felt so strange to be reading a magazine in print, not on a screen, but I have really enjoyed it. Normally I only read magazines when I am jetting off to the Mediterranean, but reading it in cloudy Hebden Bridge has made a lovely change.

In last weeks addition of Grazia one of the real life stories hit a chord with me. The feature was titled 'what it feels like to be an orphan at 28'. I read it and I really sympathised with the woman. I read it and thought of all the emotions I felt. I read it and thought, Harrie maybe it's time to share your story. One of the reasons I wanted to start a blog was to tell my story. To advise others going through the same thing. Maybe even to meet people who have been in a similar situation. Anyway, let's go back. Growing up I have very few memories of my mum and dad being together. They divorced when I was 6, so that's hardly surprising. However, I have very fond memories of them both. Separately. I remember being little and my dad picking me up from pre-school, taking me to the paper shop to buy a pick-n-mix and then letting me run riot on the local park. I remember my mum coming home from work, making us all sit at the table and getting a shepherd pie out the oven. I have no idea how the shepherd pie got in there, but I remember her taking it out the oven dressed in her nice office clothes.

Divorced life never effected me like it affects some people. My dad moved away, and I missed him a lot. But I was so young I adapted quickly. We saw him at school holidays where we would go to Yorkshire for the week to spend time with him. However, I think divorced life started to affect my mum. She lost her strength. Slowly, she lost herself. We grew up and her life got too much for her. Unfortunately, her demons overtook her. I moved in with my Dad just after my 14th birthday, and never really looked back.

I remember finding out my mum had died vividly. I was 14. I had been told something terrible had happened and I needed to contact my brother ASAP by a girl on MSN. Confused I ran and told my dad. Confused he rang my brother. No answer. He rang my mum. No answer. He rang my old landline. No answer. By now we are both looking at each other and panicking. He rings my mums best friend. She answers. The next thing I hear is my dad exclaiming 'Lindas died'. No explanation needed. I remember getting up and walking out the room. I got to the door and broke down. Having my dad there was indescribable, he picked me up, he told everyone that needed to be told, he fetched my brother. He even passed me a tissue when my tooth fell out from all the tears. (Yes I had milk teeth at 14.)

My dad was definitely my biggest support. Slowly, he helped make everything all better and we grew much closer. At the time not many people my age understood what had happened fully, but my dad got it. We didn't talk about it much but he understood why I changed and how I learnt to deal with my emotion.

Fast forward two years and my dad started to get ill. It happened quickly. It was less than two years from his first illness to him passing away. Two years I lived in denial of what was happening. Two years I concentrated on having a good time and living my life because my dad would get better. He is my dad right? He lives forever. Unfortunately that didn't happen. He passed away 19 months ago, 15 months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was 18.

In the article in Grazia Lottie O'Conor explains; "Losing one parent is a seminal life-changing event. Losing both is a doubly crushing blow". I couldn't agree more. To me losing one parent was devastating, but just about bearable because the other parent went into 'super-parent mode'. But losing both was like being lost yourself. Who is there to take over that responsibility? Who is going to teach me to cook shepherd pie? Or show me how to put up a shelf? Who is going to help me move house or just phone me to check I am ok?

19 months later, and I am still not sure on those answers. But I do know that I don't want sympathy. Life has dealt me the short hand over the last 5 years, but that doesn't mean that it will continue. For me, I feel like life has been rotten but I also feel incredibly lucky. I met both of my parents, and they were both pretty incredible. I don't want the sad looks when I mention my parents. I want people to understand and share my memories. I won't say that I am over what has happened, because I don't think you ever get over a loss like that. And I am resentful of people that have their parents for the special moments in their lives. But I am greatful. Greatful that I am not alone. Greatful that I met both of the wonderful people that they were.

I want not to remember their deaths, but remember their lives.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

What I Wore: Yorkshire Sculpture Park