It was my first Mother’s Day last month without my mom. I worked to take my mind off of things and cried on and off throughout the day. Grief is weird. Some days good, some days bad. It’s a rollercoaster to say the least. I learned that people don’t quite understand what to do in these situations and that’s okay. They want to be there and say the right thing, but sometimes they don’t know how. Our culture doesn’t do the best job with teaching us how to process death, but sadly death is inevitable.
1) It’s okay to talk about it. Sometimes those that are grieving wish that others would say the name of said parent that died. It reminds them that others are remembering their parent, and possibly missing them too. My biggest fear is everyone forgetting the existence of both of my parents. The people who made me.
2) Don’t be afraid to share any memories you may have with said parent who has passed. Pictures, videos, stories, etc. I find comfort in watching home videos of my mother and when others share stories of her. I didn’t really develop a relationship with my birth father until a year before he passed. My brother’s dad (who is awesome) raised me. However, whether my birth father was around or not, I am a part of him and certain qualities and traits of him reside within me. I particularly enjoy stories about him for that reason.
3) Remind them that you are there for them. Do not assume your grieving loved one knows that you are there. I feel like a burden sometimes, and reaching out to a friend or family member to vent is a difficult task for me to accomplish. Simply put, just reach out first if you can ❤️
4) Do something thoughtful as in make a small gesture of some sort. Specifically, if you’re not comfortable talking about it. When my mom passed, two friends sent food to my home to make life a little easier on me. On Mother’s Day, someone sent me flowers. I’ve had several others write me a hand written card this past year. When my father passed, we were able to harvest his eyes and help give the gift of sight. The organ donation organization sends me something every few months whether it’s a booklet over grief, a thank you note, or an article of some sort. Each one of these gestures have all been so thoughtful. I’ve cried every time. It’s nice to feel loved/needed when you’re going through a dark time.
Everyone has their own love language, if yours isn’t talking, then this may be the route for you. Your grieving loved one probably feels alone, so it’s just nice to be thought about.
5) This is a tricky one. Don’t complain about your family to your grieving loved one on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Especially, if their grief is still “fresh”. We can all at some point complain about our families whether it’s our parents, kids, cousins, in laws, etc. No family is perfect.
However, for those who lost their father or mother, those comments can strike a nerve. Those who have lost a parent would probably do anything to have both a mom AND a dad, dysfunctional or not.
7) If you make promises, stick to them. Your grieving loved one is already feeling more vulnerable and more sensitive, they just lost a parent which makes them feel like they lost a sense of stability. A solid support system is needed.
Even if you have a parent where the relationship is strained, which I know all too well (and I use to actually be guilty of doing this)… you may feel like you can “relate” to the pain that your grieving loved one is experiencing. Their parent has passed away, and your parent is voluntarily absent in your life. You both hurt. I get it, I really do. Your feelings are valid and absolutely justified, but it’s probably best to share those feelings with a different audience on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Strained family relationships are absolutely unfortunate, but they consist of a parent or parents that are still alive, and you at least have a tiny bit of hope of things becoming better. Your grieving loved one no longer has that opportunity and has no hope. That hope that was once there is now dead, and that can be a reminder of that for them.
8) You don’t have to try to put light on the situation and attempt to make something positive of it. I personally found comfort in others agreeing that things were indeed, shit. Acknowledging that your loved one is grieving and hurting and realizing the reality they’re living in can make a world of difference.
9) If you have no idea on what to do or what to say to your grieving loved one, say that. Tell them you have no idea, but you want them to know that you acknowledge what has occurred. It is better than saying nothing at all and ignoring the situation, I promise. A short text message of “how are you doing?” is all it takes. Sometimes we don’t have a clue with how we’re doing and we feel like we’re just here, however, it’s nice to know people are there.
10) Be patient with your grieving loved one. Everyone grieves in their own way. There is no “correct” way to mourn or grieve.
Happy Father’s Day and Happy late Mother’s Day to all. Hold your parents close. Appreciate them, love them, and make it known.
If you have a strained relationship with a parent, I urge you to get to a point where you can either find peace in the situation and what it is or slowly work on repairing that relationship.