Actor James Van Der Beek took to Instagram this week on the third anniversary of his mother’s death to share an emotional message about losing a parent.
“Today is my mother’s death anniversary. It’s year 3 and I’m at the age now where this is happening to a lot of friends of mine and so I just wanted to take today to share the advice that I give to them when I reach out, which is first of all, be prepared for this process to make zero sense,” the Dawson’s Creek alum began in a video selfie.
“It’s an emotional roller coaster. It happens at its own pace, at its own timing, and just don’t judge the emotions that come up,” he continues. “Of course, there will be sadness. Of course, there will be pain. There’s nothing you can do to bypass that. But sometimes there might be anger. Sometimes there might be regret. There might be relief. Just don’t say to yourself, God, I shouldn’t be feeling this or why am I feeling that? Just allow it to come up, layer by layer as it reveals itself.”
Van Der Beek says friends and loved ones will offer sympathy and while it’s with the best of intentions, they can’t really know what you’re feeling over the loss of your mother or father. “There will be a lot of well-intentioned people who will tell you I know exactly what you’re going through; they kind of don’t,” he says. “Everybody’s relationship with their parent is unique and complicated, and everybody’s journey through the loss of a parent is unique and complicated. What I say to people is, ‘I wish you the most complete grieving process possible.’ It will happen on its own timetable, not the timetable you want, not the timetable that people who care about you want it to happen on. The rest of the world will get going and then the weirdest, stupidest thing will set you off and you’ll find yourself feeling emotions. Just allow, allow, allow, and my deepest condolences.”
Watch Van Der Beek’s heartfelt video below:
At 46 years old, Van Der Beek is squarely among the Sandwich Generation, or those of us still with kids at home and parents who are aging. He and wife Kimberly have six children under the age of 13: daughters Olivia, Annabel, Emilia, and Gwendolyn, and sons Joshua and Jeremiah.
Van Der Beek is open about both fatherhood and the challenges of navigating mid-life on his social media, and the message about losing his mother is resonating with ’80s and ’90s kids who are growing older right alongside him.
The video post about his mother’s death anniversary generated thousands of comments from grown children who find themselves on the same emotional rollercoaster of grief.
One commenter wrote: My mom passed when I was 27 and that was 24 yrs ago and I still feel sadness and so many more emotions depending on the day or moment. Tomorrow is my 52 bday and she died when she was 50 so I have emotions around living older then she ever was. And enjoying these years not just for me but her as well. Thanks for this message!!! Happy BIRTH day to my mama! She will be close as I turn 52 tomorrow!
Another grieving reader shared similar sentiments in the comments: I lost my mama on March 22 of this year. She taught me everything I know except how to live without her. This new journey with grief is one I never could’ve prepared myself for even if I knew what to expect. It’s unpredictable and indescribable. Thank you for sharing this.
Those bittersweet emotions are echoed in thousands of other comments shared on Van Der Beek’s deeply honest and compassionate post—and it’s just another reason for us to love our old ’90s heartthrob, Dawson.