1. Feeling guilty about feeling happy.
After my mother’s death, I looked forward to laughing again, but the first time I felt like I was ready to regain a normal part of my life, I felt guilty over doing so. Why buy myself a new painting if my mom wasn’t around? Why stop and get my favorite cup of coffee? Everything felt – and feels – like I’m wrong for doing it.
2. Doubting yourself over the way you grieve.
All your life, everyone will tell you that we all grieve in different ways, but when you lose a parent, suddenly everyone has a definition for the proper way for you to deal. Grieving isn’t just about sitting in a dark room with your knees huddled to your chest, rocking back and forth in a slow cry. Grieving is when you’re in the middle of brushing your teeth and you break down crying. It’s visiting their grave and feeling slight comfort because your parent is with you to make you feel safe – and it’s the bitter feeling of leaving as you walk back to your car. Everyone is passing along what they think it means to grieve – to heal – but the truth of the matter is that they won’t know what to say until they’ve been in your shoes and understand the confusion of losing your parent unexpectedly.
3. Feeling angry when someone complains their child is sick with the flu. Or anything that isn’t the death of a parent.
Everything just seems to pale in comparison to loss, and I don’t really have the time – or sympathy – to feel bad that your child has the flu, when my mom’s child is feeling like the world ripped her heart out and is desperate for answers. I’m sorry, but telling me how bad you have it right now is just plain insensitive.
4. Hating company, but not being able to be alone yet.
When your parent dies, suddenly everyone comes out of the woodwork. Everyone tells you about good memories they had of your mom, and your friends ask you out to lunch, and suddenly your social schedule is busier than it’s been in months. Yet, the last thing you want is company, because talking is mentally exhausting. You feel like you can only mutter the same sentences over and over again so many times before all you want is a break to decompress. Yet, being alone terrifies you because it’s the only time you have to collect your thoughts. When you’re alone, you have no distractions, no happy memories, just the pain overwhelming you for you to deal with.
5. Feeling terrified that your other parent is going to die.
Before my mom passed, the last person I worried about leaving alone was my independent father. Now, being over my apartment for even an hour makes my skin crawl because I worry that I’ll get another one of those phone calls urging me to get to my parents’ house as soon as possible. Suddenly, you realize how fragile life is, and you are scared to not be there in case something happens.
6. Feeling lost when your friends don’t bring up your parent in conversation.
The first time I was around my extended group of friends after my mom died, all I could think about was how they weren’t talking about my mom incessantly like I was desperate to. Talking about what happened makes you feel connected to them still, and it’s unbearable to think or talk about something menial like work, or writing, or decorating my new apartment, when my mom is no longer around. You lose all interest in routine small talk.
7. Feeling scared. All the time.
I’ve always felt safe at my apartment, and now, I have this notion of death playing on a constant loop in my head that makes me turn my head every minute. I feel uneasy all the time now. There’s no such thing as peace, or a good night’s sleep. Every second is filled with anguish.
8. Hating the mornings more than anything.
I had always been a morning person, but now, I despise them more than anything. As the hours go by, I become adjusted to the notion that my mom won’t be calling me to tell me about her day. I have friends texting me, and my dad talking to me about things other than my mom. When I go to sleep, I have time to readjust to it and kind of live my life normally again.
But, then I wake up in the mornings and the reality of my mom’s death hits me like a tidal wave. I don’t know what’s worse – waking up in my apartment, missing the blinking text message I always had from her telling me to have a good day, or waking up at my dad’s house, looking out at the hallway where she passed away, expecting to hear her singing to Elvis on Sunday morning making coffee, and then walking out and realizing that the kitchen’s empty.
9. Losing joy in everything I once enjoyed.
Everything I do, no matter what it is, has lost its value – to the point where I wonder: will I ever enjoy anything, ever again?