If you’ve recently lost a parent or both of your parents, you may be encountering the “swarm.” That’s the family swarm—that sudden influx of relatives who have come to show their support when there’s been a death in the family.
The sudden relative rush can do a lot of things to you. It will probably make you feel overwhelmed. Who are these people? Why are there so many of them? What do they want from me?
The swarm may make you feel angry — These people are only here because my parent is dead. They didn’t care before, and they don’t really care now. They’re all phonies, here to feed off my pain.
However, you may find it comforting. Losing parents make us feel alone, lost, or without purpose. Death is such a belittling force to those of us who are still here — alive. When you are most vulnerable, maybe it’s a good thing to be surrounded by relatives, even if some of them are strangers to you.
In order to survive the swarm, maintain your sanity, and still be able to grieve in your own way, it might be good to consider the following:
1. Your family is grieving, too.
The pain you feel for having lost a parent has no comparison. You may feel like you hurt more than anybody else. You may feel like none of these other relatives actually feel as bad as you feel. That may or may not be true, but will you feel better to have the answer?
Everybody grieves differently. Some people cry — a lot! Some people get angry. Some get very quiet. Some of your family may be grieving by reaching out to you. When you feel like the swarm is descending, and you don’t know what to do, consider that by just being there you could be giving someone who loved your parent the support he or she needs.
2. Be vocal.
Relatives will do what they think is best. What they think is best may not be what you want. You have to tell them when you are uncomfortable. Most likely, they will respect your wishes. If someone continues to “support” you in the wrong way, you have a couple of options:
- Privately and politely explain that what they are doing is making you feel bad or uncomfortable or just isn’t helping, or —
- Find another relative, maybe one who you are close to, and discreetly ask him or her to intervene.
So far we’ve been giving you advice about how to deal with the swarm of relatives and strangers that you just don’t want to deal with when you’re grieving the loss of your parent. But, again, death is a wildly confusing and difficult experience. It may be easier for you to just open yourself to the possibility that the swarm may actually help you. Many of those people have dealt with the death of their own parents. Some of them may have even lost parents when they were very young. Can any of their experiences make yours seem better? No. It’s very unlikely that anyone can say anything to make this experience less traumatic. However, someone might be able to give you some advice that will help you cope.