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.
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