Saying good-bye to a parent is not something young adults expect to do. I certainly did not expect to bury my father when I was 35. And, now, a couple of years later, I realize I am not alone in grieving for a parent during this phase of life.
When my father passed away, I saw that people wanted to say something to comfort me, but were rarely successful. On many days, my emotions were completely overwhelming. I felt sad, angry, anxious, relief – often all at once. And those days still creep up on me, but most especially on my father’s birthday, the anniversary of his death, and on Father’s Day. After my own struggles with grief and navigating emotions that I could never imagine, I now have these words for friends that find themselves on this most unexpected journey:
I am so sorry to hear that your mom/dad passed away. There are really no good or perfect words to say at the moment. Please know I am thinking and praying for you.
At the moment, I cannot begin to guess how you are feeling. The emotions I felt when my father passed away ranged from disbelief to anger, sadness to helplessness. You have your own range that you are experiencing – and whatever it is, know that it is normal and okay.
You will find as you go through this surreal grief process that you will occasionally pick up the phone to call your mom/dad, but catch yourself just before you dial. In grief, it is a small blessing to have these moments where it seems that she/he is still here and only a phone call away. But when you do forget and have to remind yourself, know that it is normal and okay.
Moments, days, weeks may come when you are filled with anger and frustration that your mom/dad is no longer with you. Regardless of who or what your frustration is directed towards, it in no way changes the love you have for your parent, the love your parent had for you, or the relationship you had with them. In your frustration, know that it is normal and okay.
A day will come when you go through the motions of your day content and happy. The sadness will be tucked neatly away in a corner of your mind. At some point, the idea of your own happiness will bring you guilt – though it should not. But when you find those days of happiness in the midst of your grief, know that it is normal and okay.
As Mother’s/Father’s Day rolls around, you may see the aisle of greeting cards in the store and find yourself pausing to remind yourself that you will never buy those cards again – at least not for your own mother/father. And, if on that day, you find yourself with tears in your eyes standing in the grocery store somewhere between the greeting cards and the protein supplements, know that it is normal and okay.
After some time has passed, friends or family may casually bring up your mom/dad in conversation. Though concern may be expressed or a happy memory shared, you may find tears have made their way to the surface once again. When you have to step away so that your emotions don’t completely get away from you, know that it is normal and okay.
Grieving is not an easy journey. There are no maps. You will make some wrong turns along the way, but seek encouragement from those around you. Continue to pursue your own goals and passions. Little by little, the journey will become easier, but understand that there will be bumps along the way. Anger will interrupt your day. Sadness will find you, but so will happiness. Through all of the emotions, just know that it is normal and okay.