The last couple of months have been a wild head trip with some of the weirdest experiences of my adult life. It would be a lie to say that I haven’t been waiting for them, it wouldn’t be to say that I haven’t been looking forward to them.
The death of parent, to a childless person, means a permanent end of a huge portion of the unconditional love they will experience. My dad was my dad, I was his son, it’s just a relationship that always was and his support of me, even after my poor choices, was a huge part of why mistakes were not devastating to make. There was never judgment, just a different perspective or the comfort of knowing that someone is hearing my words. That is gone now, and it is gone forever. Right now that is looking like a very long time.
The death of a father, to a son, means the end of their male role model and family elder. I talked to my dad about most of my key decisions and I shared most of my ups and downs. This sharing gave me the chance to empty whatever needed to come out and it gave him the information he needed to offer guidance when I asked for it. During the last 6 weeks of his life, he continued to play this role, just with a little more urgency. There was a lot of advice given, some that I didn’t follow when he gave it to me years ago, some that I’ve been doing more recently and some that isn’t advice anymore as I actually do it.
People really want to be helpful when they learn that a loved one has died. The challenge is in the wording of this desire. People were telling me they would be there for me but were disappearing at the first sign of trouble. Their support was what they were willing to give. I suppose that’s fine, just say that. Offer a bucket of chicken, don’t offer to be there to talk to at anytime when you don’t want to do that or can’t. When you’re low and the call doesn’t get returned, you feel alone even though no one abandoned you. This may happen to people who lose a parent because of the short term regression in to their Child psychological state. Their parent left and now their support structure isn’t holding-up.
Being told that I have a very alienating way about me when I dad dies is something I’ll keep in mind the next time my dad dies. I know I’m temporarily screwed-up; getting better, but still only inches from the bottom. No argument here. Crying this much isn’t normal for me. Pushing people away in an effort to focus my attention on my dad and his death is how I dealt with it. It isn’t personal against any of these people, I don’t carry a grudge and I don’t even know they know what it’s like for me. I assume they are doing their best and I miss them but staying in a non-recovery state because of some mishmash of thoughts wasn’t getting the job done. Whatever seemed to slow me from dealing with the grief had to go because I was using it to table dealing with things. I’ve not dealt with grief effectively before so there wasn’t any way I was going to miss the mark here. I don’t have enough time left on the planet to get the recovery wrong again.
Someone once said the death of a loved on is like the end of a marriage. At the time I disagreed, but I’ve come to realize through chatting with people who have been through both that the two experiences are similar. With death, you are sad. There is an end to a dream, to a future. It lasts forever. With break-up you are sad, but you feel worse than alone, you feel like you have been left out in the cold. The sympathy that comes from a break-up isn’t a lot because people believe you had a hand in the demise of the relationship, which is almost always true. The wounds of a dead relationship can be opened more easily than the wounds of a dead loved one, although the latter tends to bleed more at the beginning and manifest itself as sadness vs. social difficulties.
Moving forward, I’m not going to say to those in need that “if there’s anything I can do just let me know” because that isn’t true and if they lean on me and I’m not there, what good is there in that? I’m going to try and say “it’s sad to hear that you are having a difficult time” and wait. If I say anything more, I’m implying that I have the answers and really, THEY need to speak next. It could be a bucket of chicken they want, it could be to tell me I’m a fucking asshole who should have been the one to die, or it could be something as simple as knowing someone is hearing their tears, their sorrow and that while they may be alone in their pain, they are not alone in their suffering unless they want to be.
Today, I know I did my best during the last 3 months. There are things that I learned that will be very useful for the next loss experience that will help me navigate the turmoil more effectively. I would do some things differently. I also know other people did their best. The world is fine, just missing a great man who lived a life for fun and for his family. Sometimes a bucket of chicken is what people need and, to be honest, when you’re feeling low, you shouldn’t allow yourself to get hungry because that shuts down your logic and allows your emotions to flow unfiltered.