No One Tells You This About Losing A Parent Too Soon, So I Will
Growing up, my mother was no nonsense, and all about raising my sister and I to be exceptional women.
I was always expected to be above standard, even with whatever chaos that surrounded me at any given time. It was no secret that she loved us more than anything in this world and as I got older, my mother suddenly shifted to a friend; someone I could call and she was always there. The loyalty was unmatched. She was my best friend.
Well, unfortunately, months ago, things made a turn for the worse and my mom unexpectedly transitioned. She wasn't sick, she had no illnesses. She was mobile and energetic in her last days even; the queen she had always been.
And that, my friends, was the dagger.
Now, don't get me wrong, a parent's death is never easy. But this one, was definitely hard to swallow. And honestly it still is. It never gets easier to process.
But it does get better.
Here's an honest and expressive list to explain what I've learned through it all.
You Won’t Feel Like You Can Relate to Anyone Anymore
This may come across as a bit selfish, but after an unexpected death—especially one of a parent—you become a shell of yourself. And you start to subconsciously not want to deal with anyone. Unless they've been through it, no one understands how you feel, so you sort of file everyone in a category as just someone being kind during your current hardship. And in a weird, completely unselfish way, you do not want them to. You even start to think of ways that you can get "thank you, I really appreciate it" stamped for automatic reply.
But the fact is, everyone feels sad for you and they all want to support you. But because the situation isn't exclusive to them as it is you, you find yourself uncomfortable with the comfort and feeling alone. I remember chatting with my sister and telling her:
"The hardest part of this whole ordeal, is that you've been ripped apart, and you can't breathe, and your whole world is falling apart. And to everyone around you, it's just another day."
Particularly, I remember receiving group chat messages of the usual memes or videos we'd often share and looking on social media and seeing my entire feed being completely normal.
And it's hard. Because to you, nothing is normal anymore.
People Will Disappoint You
Listen, yall: when my mom died, the community came out of the woodwork. And I mean that in the most literal form. We had people come from all over the country, some asking how they can contribute to anything, food was coming from every corner of the city, and flowers and cards and messages and calls and WHEW.
You never know how much you are loved and valued until this moment. I even had friends I hadn't seen since high school to come to my mother's funeral service. All the love is incredible, and it got me through for sure.
But for a very few, you will be disappointed, and those relationships will subconsciously become re-evaluated. I had friends and family who were there for me and checked on me everyday, no matter how much I didn't want to talk.
But I also had friends and family that I would have been that supportive person for, that I never heard from—some even to this day. My mother had 7 brothers and sisters, only one came to her funeral. Family drama will come to the surface that people cling to. Jobs will wonder when you're coming back because you just have to get those emails out. And companies will apologize for the death, but still want their money no matter what kind of debt you've just taken on or had to go into.
Friends will become question marks, family will become strangers, and situations become accentuated. But in a time where you need all the support, you have to not let that disrupt your energy. You are not obligated to comfort anyone, no matter how strong you are. And you do not have to take on anything that doesn't help you heal.
All you can do is focus on the people who supported and loved on you. Let any disappointment be background noise.
Yet, The Support You Receive Will Be A Direct Reflection Of You And Your Parent
In life, you know that people love you. But in death, you see that people love you. My goodness guys, my mom was really loved. My circle from home and college and my adult life were unbelievably encouraging and it is amazing to see and feel. I learned, and cannot stress enough, how important it is to let people be there for you and be open to whatever support that they offer. We come from a small town so the whole town immediately thought of my sister and I and made sure to step in to protect us. And when I sat down to think about the bare component as to why that is, I discovered it's all a direct reflection of who my mother was to them and who my sister and I are to people who have been along our life's journey.
You Will Unintentionally Become Depressed in Secret
They say the following weeks after the funeral is the hardest part—and that couldn't be more true. The dust has settled, you're buried with your parent's financials and expenses and belongings and you're closing out affairs and you're left with your own thoughts, all while simultaneously having to discuss the death over and over again in order to do so. You have to mention the death—by force—way too often and you're met with "aww I'm sorry to hear that" at every turn.
And as a cherry on top, you have to carry on with life: go to work, be a good spouse and maintain the lifestyle you've created. It's overwhelming for the average psyche and you will find yourself an emotional wreck. Everyone will tell you they are here for you and if you need anything to call, but it falls on deaf ears and before you know it, you find yourself depressed.
Sure you'll find yourself laughing again and smiling but it's all forged. People you see day-to-day will convince themselves you're back to your old self, and you've probably tricked yourself into thinking that you are too.
There will be good days and there will be bad days—and eventually the good days will add up. But suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement will all become a part of the journey. Taking care of your mental health is the priority and you will have to figure out how to navigate its management (which I am still trying to do).
Time Is the ONLY Healer
When your parent dies, you become a part of a situation where so many just hope to say the right things. And most will. You'll receive so many gifts and beautiful flowers and many many people will stay in contact constantly. But in the end, none of that will help you. On the upswing, you will find yourself having more meaningful conversations and looking towards your future on a clearer path. But unfortunately, none of that will help you either.
The only way you will be able to move forward is with time. All the niceties are great. All the hugs are comforting. All the calls will strengthen you. But time, and only time, will be your healer.
Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She travels throughout the midwest as a Market Director for some of the top competitive events in the country. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
Featured image by Getty Images
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- What goes through my mind as I grieve the loss of my mom - Motherly ›
- No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol ›
- What Nobody Tells You About Losing A Parent - sheblogs ›
- What No One Tells You About Losing Your Father | Thought Catalog ›
- No One Tells You This About Loss, So I Will | HuffPost Life ›
- 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Losing a Parent | Beyond ›
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
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Y’all, I don’t know if now just happens to be a heavy season for this or perhaps it’s just me, but whether it’s been on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, or “X” (which we all know is still Twitter…LOL), have you noticed that a lot of people have been talking about the pain of going through a friendship break-up? I’ll be the first to raise my hand in this class and say that some of the ones that I’ve personally experienced over the course of my lifetime damn near took my breath away; especially when it comes to the unexpected levels of grief that oftentimes typically follow (check out “How To Heal From A Broken Friendship”).
When I write my next book (that’s currently slated for release in June of 2024; just in time for a big milestone), I’m going to share some of the things that personally caused me to go through the ending of some friendships. For now, I’m going to share a big one: friendship infidelity.
Yeah, I know — oftentimes, whenever the word “infidelity” is used, the main (if not only) thing that comes up in people’s minds is someone cheating on their partner. However, if you’ve read my content for a while now, you already know that an “occupational hazard” of mine is the fact that, as a writer, I’m pretty word-literal. Therefore, when it comes to infidelity, I’m aware that it’s got more than one meaning. And when it comes to friendship (or so-called friendships — check out “Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?” and “7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One”), yes, there is a definition that totally applies. Let’s discuss.
What Does Infidelity Literally Mean?Giphy
In order for this to “scratch any itch” that you might have about this particular topic, let’s get into the definition of infidelity that I was referring to. While yes, the most popular one is “marital disloyalty; adultery” (one day, we’ll have to talk about how the Bible doesn’t define adultery in the way that folks think it does (check out Matthew 19 sometime), another definition is “unfaithfulness; disloyalty.” While we’re at it, let me share a few synonyms for the word too: betrayal, falseness, inconstancy (bookmark that), deceit, double-dealing, fraud, breach of trust, violation, dishonesty, and false-heartedness.
Okay, so now do you see how it is totally appropriate to use the word “infidelity” in the realm of friendship if someone has been unfaithful or disloyal to you in any of these ways (that inconstancy one is a mutha!)? Do you also get that there is a huge possibility that, even if you don’t want to admit it to yourself, there are times when you’ve committed some form of infidelity when it comes to one or more of the friends in your life?
Because be real — have you never breached their trust? Have you always been consistent? To violate is to treat someone or something with disrespect. Have you never done that before? Only your ego would tell you that you’ve been a perfect friend — and the ego lies.
That said and with the meanings of a different kind of infidelity established, let’s now talk about how to approach this type of experience…because it ain’t easy.
When It Comes to Faithfulness in Your Friendships, What Should Your Expectations Be?Giphy
As far as having my own accounts, I don’t do social media (still trying to decide if I will, a little bit, around my book release) — and it has been peace, wonderful peace, to live that way. This means that it’s pretty rare that I’ll read comments via any of the platforms I write for (also peaceful). Oh, but a few years ago, when I penned “Why I Prefer My Friends To NOT Be Friends With Each Other,” I did tiptoe out a bit, and boy, some folks were disgruntled with me, chile. I was called petty, problematic, and a host of other stuff.
Uh-huh first, I don’t get how you can be mad at me about what works for me and my life (being controlling manifests in all sorts of cryptic ways) and secondly, time and experience have taught me that it’s a boundary that has served me extremely well. One of the reasons is that, since friendship infidelity is a very real thing, my lines not crossing helps to keep people from betraying my confidence or double-dealing in a way that may not even be intentional.
An example? Say that I have two friends and I tell one of them something in confidence. Then she tells the other friend, assuming that I already had because she thought that the other friend and I had similar discussions. This would be a non-issue if I hadn’t brought them together in the first place.
Another example is, one of my closest friends has some people who I like a lot who live in Nashville (my friend doesn’t). Sometimes, when she comes into town, we’ll all hang out. I don’t do it outside of that, though, because there are things that she shares with me about them on occasion (from a getting a different perspective to make certain decisions angle; especially since I’m a life coach) that I don’t want to make her or them feel awkward about (even if it’s just due to somewhat of a shift in my energy). Plus, everyone just needs to have their own people. This ain’t high school; everyone doesn’t have to be in the same cliques.
If one of my friends wants to vent about me…I don’t care if/when they are talking to someone who I don’t even know…because I’m not friends with that person… because I don’t expect anything from a complete stranger. So again, this type of boundary has served me extremely well over the years — and my friends agree. It has made “faithfulness” so much easier for all parties involved because again, lines don’t cross and things don’t get messy.
Okay. I’ll give you one more example that has to do with one of my male friends and his personal friendship-related preference. Due to his high-profile profession, he doesn’t like to be discussed at all, not even casually (really). He doesn’t want me to bring his name up and, when someone else does, he prefers that I keep the conversation down to an absolute minimum, no matter what the topic is. For him, it works for his close friendships to be somewhat private, so that people don’t know who they can go to in order to get in touch with him or to receive any intel that he hasn’t directly shared — professionally or personally.
Some people may call that “paranoid.” For him, it’s safe to move that way. And so, as his friend, it’s not my job to try and talk him out of his standard. If I value our friendship, I simply need to honor his request — plain and simple. To do otherwise would be an act of unfaithfulness (especially if I agreed to what he asked me to do and then switched up on him).
So, when it comes to you, what are your expectations? What do you need — actually require — of your own friends? Have you stated those things? Because you should never assume that your definition of what a friend should be is exactly the same as someone else’s. Next, have you made it abundantly clear to them that if those expectations are not honored, you will feel some level of betrayal? If you haven’t, you should because, although most of us can agree that a partner sleeping with someone other than their own spouse is a form of infidelity, friendship infidelity isn’t quite so black and white.
If you want your friend(s) to be faithful — “true to one's word, promises, vows, etc.,” “steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant” — you need to be upfront with them about what they are vowing to do…what you want them to be constant in? Because, again, how you might roll as a friend may be something different to/for them.
Come to think of it, love languages in friendships is a good example of this. One of my close friends is a quality time person; I’m not. On the other hand, I am a words of affirmation person; she isn’t. She used to think that it was a given that I should want to hang out at least once a month and I used to get irritated that she wasn’t big on words. When we had a talk about our individual expectations, we found a “middle ground” and that made things so much easier…on both sides. Indeed, in order to be faithful (or unfaithful), you first gotta know what you’ve agreed to be faithful to. It’s not fair to expect someone to honor you and what you bring to a friendship if you’re not communicating your expectations on the front end.
So, what should your expectations in your friendships be? That, I can’t answer for you, because even when it comes to across-the-board traits like support, availability, and communication, honestly, even those are gonna manifest differently for different people.
All I’m saying is make sure that you share what your expectations are as you listen to theirs as well. That way, you both can move forward in your friendship knowing what you have mutually agreed to actually be faithful to.
What Should You Do If a Friend “Cheats on You”?Giphy
Okay, so what if, after you have established what you need/expect from your friend, they are unfaithful or disloyal? That’s kind of a loaded question because there are a lot of different ways that this box can get checked. For instance, I once had a friend who kept trying to put me in touch with someone who I knew was unsafe (on a lot of levels). She kept asking and I kept telling her “no.” One day, she called me and then handed that person the phone — she was disloyal because she dishonored my boundary.
Back in the day, I used to write devotionals and I shared the story (sans her name) in it. All of a sudden, she thought that she was the victim (gaslighting friends are something else). So wait — you put me in harm’s way and I need to apologize to you for it? If her identity was obvious (I didn’t even say “she”), I get it — it wasn’t. She just felt guilty and didn’t want to take accountability. As a result, she weaponized our friendship by going ghost for like a year and then tried to come back as if nothing had ever happened. Chile.
For me, there was no coming back. The way she handled that, on a few different levels, was emotionally draining and I honestly didn’t have the stamina for it. So, I ended the relationship officially. Years later, we saw each other and made our peace. I’m fine with it being just that (check out “Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead”).
That’s kind of an extreme example. Still, the reason why I brought it up is because I wanted you to see how I handled one form of friendship infidelity: I thought about what happened, I pondered what I was getting (and not getting) from the friendship, I thought about how she handles things when she is in the wrong and I focused on what would be the benefits and challenges of keeping her in my life. The conclusion that I came to is I care enough about her that we’re not rolling our eyes in the mall or sucking our teeth whenever one of our names comes up to the other yet I don’t want her to continue walking closely to me in my journey. I’m good.
For you, it might be a bit different. What if one of your friends betrays you in some way? Is it fair to take a “one-and-done” approach? I dunno. Is that how you would want your friends to handle you? Do you want to feel like, no matter what, after you make one mistake (or poor choice; not everything is a mistake…some things are intentional), there’s no coming back? If so, you might not want to have relationships at all because humans are fallible, INCLUDING YOU. You might as well settle in with that fact now or you’re about to be triggered, irritated, or angry for most of your life, chile.
What Should You Do If YOU’RE the One Who Cheats?Giphy
Over the weekend, I watched a movie where a woman cheated during a long-distance relationship and then claimed that her boyfriend was “punishing her” because he wasn’t over it a month later. The first thing that came to my mind? A lack of accountability. Why? Because I’m pretty sure that if the shoe had been on the other foot, she wouldn’t be all rainbows and sunshine four weeks later…either.
Being that I grew up in an environment (pretty much everywhere, including church) where folks absolutely sucked at taking personal responsibility for their actions without trying to make excuses, using justifications, deflecting, or gaslighting, I am almost violent about making sure that I don’t follow suit. And because I’ve had times when I’ve violated someone’s boundaries (I used to be more controlling than I should’ve ever been) and/or betrayed their trust (just because I’m basically an open book, that doesn’t mean that I should assume that everyone is the same way) — I’ve had to learn how to take full ownership for my actions. Then, if the person is open to accepting my apology, I would take things up a notch by making amends (check out “Heads Up: It's NOT An Apology If An Amends Isn't Made”).
If you’re not sure what an "amends" is, basically, when you’ve done something that has offended someone or caused them some type of harm if you’re truly remorseful, it’s not enough to flippantly toss a “my bad” in their direction. No, when you really get the magnitude of what has transpired — and if you want to restore the damage that was caused — you need to be intentional about doing something that will help with the healing process. This can happen with a simple, “What can I do to make things better?” People who apologize and then ask something along those lines show that they really get what they did; not only that but they are displaying that they want to humble themselves enough to help the person they hurt to “recover” in any way that they can.
So, if you are the one who was unfaithful or disloyal — own it, address it, apologize (without any unnecessary extra-ness, make amends, and then give your friend space to heal…however they need to do so. Infidelity hurts in any kind of relationship dynamic yet when two people — BOTH INDIVIDUALS — really want to make things work, they can come back from it. Oftentimes better than they were before.
How to Heal from Friendship InfidelityGiphy
It really can’t be said enough that humans are fallible. In fact, it is my belief, that if more of us said that as a mantra, five times a day, we’d probably be a lot more merciful than we tend to be. Because since none of us are perfect — INCLUDING OURSELVES — it really is pretty ridiculous to expect to be in relationships with folks and have them never disappoint you (where they do that at?!). The reality is sometimes a friend may be disloyal — not in a malicious or redundant kind of way (another message, another time) but just…they didn’t meet your requirements, they hurt your feelings (even if not intentionally) or they simply made a poor decision. Just like you have before — and at some point, will again.
Yes, it can hurt; trust me, I’ve been there. At the same time, you can heal from the pain and your friendship can survive too. The key is to really process the character of your friend, the track record of your friend, and if the benefits far outweigh the challenges with them. If everything is on the upswing, talk to your friend about how you are feeling, pay close attention to how they respond (if there is remorse, compassion, and patience), and then make the decision that you want to move forward. And then move in a way that shows that you’ve learned from it all.
For instance, say that you told one of your friends something in confidence and they repeated it. After getting context, if it was reckless chatter, healing begins with forgiving them, them trying to make things right and then you easing into sharing anything else. No, it’s not about keeping the door shut forever — it’s more like, telling them something that you don’t really mind if it gets out. If it does, although that’s not a big deal, you will now see that yapping is a pattern for them and so, although you like having them in your life, being a “confidant space” is not where they need to be — at least not for quite some time.
And what if, in your opinion, there is no coming back from friendship infidelity? How do you heal from that? Well, you need to grieve it like you would grieve anything else. Go through the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The key is to not stay stuck; especially in anger. Because really, how is that gonna help or change anything?
I’ve gone through some acts of extreme infidelity that took me a while to move to acceptance — really accepting that it happened and fully accepting that I had to let the relationship go. Yet once I got there, healing was waiting for me. Because I wasn’t beating myself up trying to read someone else’s mind or motive or exhausting myself by wishing things were different. No one can change the past. Even accepting that can restore you to some pretty unexpected levels.
This is the kind of topic that I really could write an entire book about. For now, I just hope that this article provides some clarity that, if you wonder if unfaithfulness is a real thing as far as friendship is concerned, it most certainly is. It’s also not automatically unforgivable either.
Last example: I’ve got a friend of decades who prioritized a woman that he barely knew over our friendship. Meaning, she was threatened by me being around and so he did whatever to make her happy even at the expense of what we agreed to do and be to each other, as friends. Friendship infidelity. He has since apologized and I told him what I am a firm believer in: the apology needs to breathe. I need to take some time, he needs to take some time and, in time, either we will still see value in our dynamic or, because an apology was made and then accepted, peace will always remain between us.
Infidelity is something that none of us want to experience — oh, but we probably will. When it comes to your friendships, perhaps you’ve got a (better) grasp on how to handle it.
Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end. Live long enough, chile, for better or for worse, you will know about both. I can almost guarantee it.
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