Seven years ago today, my dad passed away from cancer.
Recently, several friends and acquaintances have walked along similar journeys with their loved ones. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on grief or loss, but I hope that by sharing some of our experiences it will bring peace to others in similar circumstances.
Everyone grieves differently.
After the dust has settled and life moves on, people grieve differently. I don’t really think there’s a right way or wrong way to grieve as long as your grief isn’t causing physical harm to you or others. For some, it helps to be strong and take charge. For others, it feels better to be vulnerable and mourn. Some may be involved in all the processes following death, while others may be more distanced. Each day of grieving can be, and probably will be, different.
At the funeral, Mom and I only shed about one tear each. I think we both had a sense of relief that this dreaded moment was finally here and about to be over. I often wondered what people thought seeing a widow and daughter at their husband and father’s funeral seemingly showing no sense of sadness. I’ve since come to terms that it doesn’t really matter.
Unfortunately I’m guilty of questioning others’ mourning processes, too. Some respond by spending money they received as part of the death from life insurance payouts or other sources. Others respond by going out and having a good time. Some stay home. Some respond by becoming all encompassed with the processes following death; however, others seem to ignore those processes and put them off as long as possible. I often have to remind myself that just because I didn’t grieve that way doesn’t mean others shouldn’t. Be generous with grace.
Take care of yourself.
In the days, weeks, and months following a death, there are a tremendous amount of tasks to complete. Funeral arrangements must be made; family, friends, and colleagues must be contacted; there’s an endless list of organizations to notify–social security, insurance companies, banks, credit card companies, phone companies…the list goes on and on. It truly becomes a part time job.
Mom took care of most of this, but the process is EXHAUSTING. Explaining over and over and over to people that your loved one has died and the circumstances around it wears on people. Sometimes these calls were met with pleasant well wishes and condolences. But far too many times there were numerous hoops to jump through, extensive paperwork, and even less than helpful or sympathetic customer service representatives.
I’ll never forget Mom calling to tell me that the phone/internet company refused to shut off Dad’s internet at his office until he himself called. Seriously???
Throughout this process, take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Take breaks to do things for yourself that bring you joy. And don’t feel guilty about it.
Find your people.
In situations like this, there will be people that offer endless help and support. There will be people who look out for your needs by bringing meals, offering to help where they can, and providing emotional support. Allow those people to help you.
On the flip side, there may also be people who you think will step up to help or who you would like to help who may not. Do not take this personally. As mentioned above, everyone responds to death differently. Allow them space to heal and process as they need to, and instead rely on those who are willing to help. Try so very hard to maintain these relationships, even when things are tough. This season of life won’t last forever, and while it may be difficult to understand each other in this moment, this season will pass.
Death sucks. It’s hard. It’s an emotionally, physically, and mentally draining roller coaster. One day you feel like you can handle anything, the next day it may be a struggle to get out of bed. That’s okay. Take each day as it comes.
One blessing from our situation is that I’m able to be an understanding friend to those in similar situations. If you ever need a listening ear (or eyes to read a message), PLEASE reach out. 💜