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10 Things You Learn From Losing Your Parents Too Early

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There are a number of words to describe how I feel about the relationship that I had with each of my parents throughout my life. Lucky, blessed, loved, fortunate, are all words that immediately come to mind. We were an incredibly close family and our love for one another was (and still is) incredibly evident. So as you might imagine, losing my parents at such a young age (and in such a short period of time) has been quite a tumultuous experience, but has also been a strong life lesson.  There are far more than 10 things you learn from losing your parents too early.

I’ve cried to the point of running out of tears. I have absolutely no shame in saying that I have literally broken down and wept. There have been a number of moments where grief has so severely overtaken me that my legs have given out and I’ve fallen to the floor balling my eyes out and panting for air. And yes, I am crying while I type this.

If you weren’t aware of the bond my parents and I shared before, I bet I’m starting to illustrate a nice picture. 

One thing that mom and dad always taught me was to look for the silver lining. Look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Their support was a catalyst for me to always keep the faith and know that no matter the situation, everything would always be ok. This mentality has caused me to be optimistic through trials and tribulations and has, I believe, been a foundation for the character I have developed as a man.

The process of mourning my parents and grieving over their loss has been a roller coaster. I have had days where I felt as if nothing mattered anymore, and days where I felt on top of the world. Days like the later are days I’ve felt filled with positivity and filled with the spirit and memory of my parents. Days like that are days that have brought me inspiration; inspiration that I wanted to share with you all.

I’ve been working on this blog for about a week or two, because I wanted each and every point to be raw and filled with emotion. There are many things that I have learned through this process, so I wanted to take a moment to share the 10 most profound.

Here are 10 things you learn from losing your parents too early

1. Travel as often as possible.

Travel has so many rewards. The amazing memories one makes while traveling is easily the best souvenir in the world. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that loved to take vacations. Each summer my parents and I would travel throughout the United States to visit various national and state parks. Many of my best childhood memories are from trips like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Wildwood, New Jersey, etc.

Whether you’re traveling solo, with friends, with your partner, or with your family, travel as often as possible. The memories you create will last a lifetime and if (God forbid) you end up in a predicament like mine, they’ll be all you have to cherish.

2. Live without regrets.

Regrets are stupid. They’re futile. They consume space in your brain and control you emotionally when you really have no power over historical action. Most of the things we stress about in life are entirely things that we cannot control. Regrets 100% fall into this category. Sure, you’re inevitably going to make mistakes in life. Sure, you’re going to look like an asshole/bitch every once in a while. Sure, you’re going to fuck up certain scenarios and wonder what could have been. But live like a scientist when it comes to regret. Treat past experiments as learning experiences for future hypotheses. Once you learn how NOT to do something, you’re one step closer to learning how to do something.

3. Take 10 minutes to do the thing you’ve been putting off…or delete it.

How often do you have calendar reminders that you snooze or move out a few hours/days? Why do we constantly do this to ourselves? If you have a reminder for something you’re not going to do, delete it. If you have a reminder for something you honestly intend to do, take the 10 minutes to do it.

I know full well that my father had a couple items on his to do list as I found them sitting on his desk after he passed. So take the 10 minutes to cross these items off. Don’t push out something you need done and definitely don’t bog down your future mind with items you will ultimately never complete. Do or delete. That easy. Side note – I actually had a reminder go off during this section and stopped writing to complete the task. 10 minutes later, I’m done.

4. Say what you feel.

After a loved one passes there will be a number of things you want to say to him or her. I would simply love to have another conversation with both of my parents. There is nothing I ever really hid from there or refrained from expressing, so no regrets there (refer back to point 2). However, many people deal with this type of regret. Don’t let yourself be susceptible to regret.

5. Love unconditionally.

Don’t EVER be afraid to love and lose. Many people live with the fear of losing a loved one, and I completely get that. Watching my father deal with the heartbreak of losing my mother and ultimately dying less than 6 months later was the most depressing thing I’ve ever had to watch. But you know what? The scars are a testament to the love. The pain is proof of the bond. Love unconditionally and pray that you have that type of pain someday. Because without that type of pain you will have lost out on an incredible opportunity to love.

6. Plan ahead…but not too much.

Tomorrow isn’t promised. It’s imperative to plan ahead in life, but it’s also absolutely critical to live in the moment. Plan ahead and make sure to set up your affairs so that your beneficiaries and heirs are not only provided for, but set up to easily handle a loss. When dealing with a death, the absolute LAST thing you want to do is handle legal ordeals and bureaucratic shit. Trust me, plan ahead in regard to the “big” things in life but don’t be afraid to live in the moment in regard to the smaller things.

Here is my favorite quote (in regard to the “not too much” aspect):

“So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough..” -Robert Hastings

7.  Who is real and who is fake. Quickly you learn not to waste your time on people who won’t spend their time with/for you.

When you lose a loved one, people come out of the woodwork to express condolences (especially on social media). For the first 24 – 48 hours you’ll have an absolute overflow of support from people you haven’t even spoken to in years. However, when it’s all said and done, and people get back to their lives a few days after, you’ll start to see who is truly there for you. Those who are more surface level friends will fade into the shadows until they write, “Happy Birthday!” on your timeline next year and those who truly love and care for you will not waiver. Those who have been most critical to me are those who have expressed continual support weeks and months following the loss of my parents. And not surprisingly, those are the individuals who I hold dearest in life.

8. Take that extra 5 minutes to listen to mom/dad’s story you’ve heard 5 times before.

“I know mom you told me.” “Dad, you’ve shared this story 5 times….this week!” Are these words familiar? Sure they are. You’ve heard that joke or story that dad has told about 5 before and mom is likely to repeat things she shares with you. Listen anyway. You have no idea how badly I would like to hear my mom tell me something silly like what she ate for lunch or share a story that she thought I would enjoy. I’m 100% serious when I say that I have 2 old voicemails from my mom saved.  One is simply here calling to say she loves me and the other is her asking me what the difference is between Chipotle and El Pollo Loco.  I laugh and cry equally as hard whenever I go back and listen to it.  And I would pay a good bit of money to hear dad tell some jokes that he wrote himself, even if they’re cheesy.

9.  Life, truly is, what you make it.

People have been known to do spectacular things with little to no means while others have done almost nothing with every opportunity in the world. Be the former.

Life is what you make it. It’s simple. Sure, you might get dealt a bad hand. Sure you’re going to deal with fucked up situations. But carpe the diem and live the life you want. People tell Alex and I all the time that they, “Wish they could do what we do.” Well, you can. If a ghetto kid from Port Hueneme with a massive pile of student loans and a girl from Camarillo were able to make that dream come to life, you surely can as well. It simply comes down to one question….what’s important to you in life? If you value something over traveling, then the opportunity cost of traveling is significantly higher for you than it is for us. We live the life we dream because we choose to. Sure, there are things we would change…but we are working on those.

10.  Treat every moment like the last moment.

This may seem a bit cliché and obviously might be almost impossible to put into practice. My parents always taught me to never part without a kiss and an “I love you” because you honestly never know when it’s all going to be over. I know this might sound weird but before we took off for our month-long trip to Europe I stopped by to see my father. I actively did everything I could to make sure it was a positive interaction and that I expressed my love and appreciation for him because something inside of me felt like there was a good chance it might be the last time I would ever see him. I shared with him that I was going to propose to Alex in Positano and I made sure to encourage him as much as possible.  As weird as that sounds, I was right. I’ve been beyond thankful every day that we parted with a hug and kiss and that we said, “I love you,” probably 3 or 4 times before I finally left.

In the heat of anger and frustration it’s quite difficult to express love and to treat each moment like it could be the last. Our ego constantly gets in the way and refuses to allow us to be humble when we feel challenged. Get past that, humble yourself, and treat every moment like it could be the last. Because it honestly might be.

Note from the author:

I realize this blog wasn’t entirely travel based, but I wanted to share my thoughts with you all regardless. Of course, I made sure to incorporate travel because it is an integral part of mine and Alex’s lives. However, the overall message here is to be sure to live in the present. Hopefully this blog will inspire some of you and not simply sound like a rant.

13 Comments

  1. Aman says:

    This is beautiful. You’re a very strong soul.

  2. Brooke Moore says:

    I cried reading this. I wish there was a way to make it better but just know that we (Alex’s family) will always be there to support you. I know as time goes by, the pain will lessen and you will always have those wonderful memories. Hang on to that! I love you Michael!

  3. Christine Gallagher-Massey says:

    Michael,
    This is beautiful. My heart still breaks for your overwhelming loss but I am uplifted by the love that you and your Mom & Dad shared and the strength that you have in the face of your great loss.
    Uncle Bill & I are 3000 miles away but we are here for you. Of course, given your love for travel, you & Alex have an open invitation to visit us anytime.
    You will always been in our prayers.
    Love you!!!

  4. Christine Gallagher- Massey says:

    I posted a response earlier & don’t see it – did you get it Michael?

  5. Christine Gallagher- Massey says:

    Oh now I see my first response- duh 😂

  6. Janet Armentrout says:

    Your mom and dad were always so proud of you Michael. In reading your blog, your parents did an awesome job raising you. They gave you a great foundation. They will forever be shining down on you. HUGS ❤

  7. Camille says:

    Stumbled across this and now I’m failing to fight back tears….at work! Not only did your post inspire me, but I have a lot of respect for you and Alex both for continuing to travel and live inspired lives. Incredible words!

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