When you get hit like this with an overwhelming loss, others reach out to you to ask how to handle things for themselves. I have found that helping others helps me. I am better able to get perspective on what I’ve been through by looking for ways to share it with someone else. In an email to a college classmate in June, I offered this:
First of all, I’m so very sorry for your loss. I understand how lost you feel. Having a parent go suddenly is so very disorienting, even when they are at an age when people assume they’ve lived a “long life”. Like you, I wanted more – and with my mom, expected it! Her mom and sister both lived in to their 90s, so I was thinking that mom had another 10 years ahead. It was such a shock to have her go so soon after dad.
It’s taken me a full year to get through a lot of this. Feeling normal is just now something I can do. I spent a lot of days “acting as if” – meaning I would try to be normal on the outside while hurting. I think in some respects it is easier with both parents gone, as I no longer am worrying about how my mom is doing. It’s strange, but there’s comfort in that thought. Not that I would have wished for that outcome, but you find solace in the strangest things.
I wear my mom and dad’s wedding rings on a chain when I need them most. As one of 5 kids, I don’t presume to own them, but each time I’ve offered them to one of my siblings, they’ve said they wanted me to still hang on to them. It helps me feel their presence in a tangible way. I talk to them, too – just to tell them I am missing them. Not in a whack-a-doodle way, but in a healthy, missing you way. 🙂
I’ve used writing to help me process things. I have a series of short essays I’ve written that give me a chance to reflect on how this has been. I’ve reached out to my brothers and sisters and leaned on them when I’ve needed to share. I’ve taken up traditions that were my parents and am trying to carry them on. Staying connected to what mattered to them most – family and relationships – makes me feel like I am honoring them in the best way possible.
I know the expression “one day at a time” is probably the last thing you want to hear, but it is one that works. Take each day for what it is – if you feel sad, be sad. If you need to connect, find a way. If you are missing her, go through pictures and remember the wonderful times – like you did today, here. That will help keep you afloat. Then slowly, you find it gets easier. Your kids will be there to distract you – and give you an outlet to pour your love in to. Be kind and patient with yourself as you go through this year and know you’re not alone.
If you ever want to read some of what I’ve written, I’d be happy to share. I am here to be a shoulder for you to lean on – and hope you know I care.
The more we reach out to another person, the more connections we maintain and those connections are critical to feeling better.