1. There was nothing you could do to stop it
Guilt preys on us. It engulfs us and tricks us into believing we have any control over what is destined to occur in our lives – especially when it comes to the death of a loved one. If you had been there when they died, the end result would have been the same. If you had not been there, or if you were out shopping, or at work, or still in bed, the end result would have been you getting that dreadful phone call, and driving panicked to your parents’ house wondering how things were so different and blissful the day prior.
Death is out of our control, and living a life constantly wondering if things would have been different is one of the worst parts of the grieving process. You did all you could and you’ll learn to accept that.
2. You are allowed to have fun
The grieving process is not on a stopwatch. It doesn’t tell you when your grieving will be over because if I’m being honest with you, it’ll never be over. Time does not heal the wound of losing a parent and it never will.
But, time does make you stronger, and capable of pushing past those obstacles that crippled you early on. This includes having fun. It’s okay to laugh at something truly funny. It’s okay to laugh at silly memories, to go out for coffee, to watch your favorite movie or to take a vacation. It is okay to go out to eat after your parent’s funeral, along with friends who will make you laugh.
It seems so outrageous, the idea of carrying on with your life, but the bottom line is that those little breaks of enjoying the world around you are what heal you. It’s impossible to live a mentally healthy life if you don’t allow yourself to get back to enjoy the things you loved about life before you lost them.
3. People don’t understand what you’re going through, until they’ve been through it themselves
This is why you have to make a conscientious effort to always be honest when you’re talking about your loss and your sadness to another loved one or friend. People will say the routine lines: that time heals all, that your mother would want you to be happy but the bottom line is that all their phrasing is easier said than done.
It’s okay to ask for that person to not give advice so they can allow you to just vent. It’s okay if you ask someone not to feed you that line because right now, you just need them to be physically there to listen because listening – not the lines – is what makes it better.
4. Holidays will suck, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t celebrate them
When my mother passed in February, I dreaded the upcoming winter season without her. As time went on, though, celebrating my birthday, buying Christmas decorations and drinking eggnog while watching her favorite Will Ferrell movie became easier.
It’s still hard. It sucks that my mom won’t be around to help trim the tree, or that I won’t hear her huff and puff and complain that she’s getting the tree from the attic, or to not have her leave me voicemails stating when the next Santa Claus movie is coming on Freeform.
It sucks to see my dad so broken, so miserable about celebrating anything without her. But, not celebrating a season we always loved doesn’t feel right to me – and that’s perfectly okay. It’s a sign of progress that you want to indulge yourself in a familiar tradition, and you should never feel pressured to give up or give in to celebrating something you’re not ready for.
5. You can’t fix this – and that’s okay
The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn through losing my mom is that it’s a situation I’m powerless to fix. I can’t make my dad happier because the only thing that will bring him full circle is if my mom comes back to him. I can’t fix my bad days because I’m destined to a life where I will have them, because losing my mom, my best friend, has been the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my young, twenty seven years.
I can’t make time go faster than it already is and I need to accept that everyone in my family who is dealing with this has to deal with it at their own pace.
6. You need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others
After losing my mom, I became kind of obsessed with making sure my dad was getting out of the house and having him go on adventures to take his mind off it – and to also make sure he wasn’t alone. We’d talk about my mom and sometimes I’d just listen to how he felt.
Sometimes that meant, in my mind, not putting my emotions on him. Sometimes it meant me keeping everything in and letting it pile up until I found myself feeling overwhelmed by a whole swirling load of sadness. It’s vital to take time for yourself first.
It’s vital to care for yourself first. It’s vital to indulge in your hobbies first, enjoy your downtime first. It’s vital to give yourself a mental health break, to make sure your needs are being met because that’s the only way you can be strong for others – and be strong for yourself.
7. Don’t be so hard on yourself – you’re doing fine
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is only something you know how to deal with once it’s happened to you. There is no race or time frame as to when you’ll heal. There is no book that tells you how to do it because we all grieve differently. You have to be mindful to not be so hard on yourself.
Remember you’re still allowed to have fun and to enjoy the little things because if there’s anything that’s true in this life, it’s that the parent you lost would want you to do those things. They wouldn’t want you to be miserable every second of every day. They would want you to live your life, and it is absolutely acceptable for you to do so in your own time. You’ve dealt with a lot, and you’re doing fine. Never forget that.
by Courtney Dercqu