Talking to Someone Who's Lost a Parent

10 Jul 2015

It isn't easy to talk to someone who has lost a parent, even when you've been through it yourself.

Last weekend the father of one of my son's friends died. His death was not unexpected, but I am sure it was still shocking and very sad. He left behind 3 children - ages 12, 16, and 20. I've known my son's friend and this family for almost 10 years. I lost my mom almost 7 years ago, yet when confronted with this situation, I was at a loss for words to say to my son's friend. I've always considered him a second son and wanted to let him know I am here for him if he needs to talk. I wanted to make sure he knew he was not alone in whatever he was feeling. So after a few days of thought I sent a text message to my son's friend. It will take time for the grief to pass and the healing to begin, and if he needs me I will be there for him.

Don't Know What To Say

When confronted with a death, a lot of people do not know what to say. When my mom died, there were friends who helped, others who tried, and some who didn't say a word about my mom's death and what I was going through. It's a tough situation for those who have not lost a parent. They don't understand how great the loss is or how deep the pain may run. Many times they are at a loss for what to say. Other times they say the wrong thing, making the pain even worse.

Well Intentioned Words

I believe that when people are in a situation where they feel uncomfortable or really have no idea what to say, they often say something they think/hope will help. These well intentioned words are not meant to cause pain but sometimes do. After my mom died, many things were said to me. These words were in no way meant to cause me pain or increase my grief, but, unfortunately, sometimes they did.

“Your mom is in a better place now." Yes, she is and she is not in pain anymore, but my mom is not here with her family anymore. I miss my mom deeply and feel lost without her at times. My dad lost his wife. My brother and I lost our mom. My kids lost their grandmother. My mom may be in a better place, but for a long time, her family was not.

Of course I never said the thoughts that ran through my mind. I nodded my head, smiled, thanked the person for his/her support during this difficult time. I did appreciate the fact that people came to comfort us and remember my mom with love. What really helped me was when people told me what my mom meant to them or stories of times they spent with my mom.

Get Over It

When my mom died, I pulled into myself. I didn't reach out to friends. I was worried about my family and dealing with my own grief in the best way I could. Friends called and sent emails, texts, and IMs. Many of my friends reached out to me to make sure I was ok. They gave me space when needed and were there when I wanted to talk, until eventually I healed enough to "re-enter" the world.

But there was one friend in particular and I will never forget what she said to me. A few months after my mom died, we were talking and she said "I don't understand why you just can't get over this. It's been 3 months since your mom died." I was shocked at her words, but even more shocked by what she said to me years later. We had met to chat and catch up. Our friendship was not what it was once was, and part of that was my fault. I really struggled with my mom's death and didn't want to bring my misery to others. So I kind of isolated myself, as I tried to heal and work through all the emotions surrounding my mom's illness and death. I had not seen this friend in several months and she told me that she had pulled away from me, stopped texting, emailing, and calling, because I had been a downer after my mom died. In her mind, I took too long to heal from my mom's death. Her words hurt me deeply. The death of a parent is not something you just "get over" and in my mind there is no timeline on grief.

There Are People Who Understand

A friend told me that “the untimely loss of a parent can be best understood by someone who has shared the experience.” He showed me support and compassion during one of the hardest times of my life. Throughout my mom's illness, he checked in with me regularly by e-mail, asking how my mom was doing, asking how I was doing, and providing words of comfort. He truly understood what I was going through and it helped me immensely. I later found out that he’d lost his dad to cancer at a young age.

The empathy he showed me was gift, since what I was going through probably brought back painful memories for him. The death of the father of my son's friend has brought back memories of my mom's death for me. But that won't stop me from trying to help him or help others. Any friend can provide support and help during your time of grieving, and there were friends in my life who had both parents and gave me support, understanding, and love. I also found support online through my blog site by connecting with people who had lost a parent. They got it. They understood and provided words of comfort. From those words and the support of my friends, I healed.

I will always miss my mom. I will always wish she were still here with her family. She will always be a part of my heart. People were there when I needed them most. I want to be there for others too.

 



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