Ten years after my mother’s death, I have nothing new to report, no wisdom to drop, no life changing epiphanies about dealing with grief, which sounds somber, but really it’s not.
The death of a parent is tricky, but even more than that, confusing. There is no one magical formula or guideline, step-by-step instructions, anything about how to feel, what to feel and why.
For the longest time I thought there was something wrong with me. There were no unanswered questions, zero regrets. No confusion or extreme sadness, just logic. My mother was no longer on the planet and I immediately dealt with that reality, which didn’t seem…normal. So I questioned myself. What’s wrong with me? Do I not know how to feel? Am I out of touch with my emotions? Is my coping mechanism set to insensitive?
I would search deep within for indicators of hidden feelings, but nothing. I was simply dealing with my reality.
Then I would start questioning myself again: What is wrong with me? This doesn’t seem right. Where are my feelings? Perhaps I am selfish, self-absorbed, or worse, a sociopath. THen I’d look for feelings again. The process was a bit of a nuisance and sometimes it drove me so batty I wanted the voices in my head to stop, yet as I grew annoyed with myself and the voices, it would start all over again: stop that, self-reflection is important. What’s wrong with me? Am I selfish? Etc., etc.
Back to square one.
Recently, an important person in my life lost their mother. I wanted to have all the right things to say but aside from condolences, the words from my heart were: it’s okay to feel however you want. Whether it’s anger, sorrow, confusion, regret, relief that she is no longer in pain or even numbness, there is no one way you are supposed to feel, so allow yourself to just…be. I know. I was there. I am still there.
Then I realized, I wished someone had given me that advice.
It took years and someone I deeply care about to lose their mother for me to see that we are different. We have different relationships with our parents, different coping mechanisms and various life experiences that make it necessary for us to come up with our own answers. It’s scary and unsettling but that’s the way it is. The way it has to be.
Perhaps that is the life lesson that comes from death. That as we seek answers, we soul search and face demons that help us grow and become better people. If anything, my mother’s death taught me to be vulnerable and more open with my feelings, something I always thought of as a weakness but more accurately foreign, as we are not taught to be emotionally attune in our culture. Emotional intelligence is something I force-learned and am still learning every day. See? We are all different.
So if you or someone close to you is dealing with death, please remember to allow yourselves/themselves to feel however you/they want.
It’s okay. It’s the way it has to be.