The Right Way to Grieve a Parent’s Death
A few days after my father died, I attended a party thrown by a friend. Some attendees were surprised to see me and looked a bit confused. While they didn’t say so directly, I could see or maybe my intuition picked up on their thoughts. My dad just died and I was at a party? Was that disrespectful or okay? The answer, my friend, is whatever you believe is right for you. There is no right way to grieve, much the same way that there is no right way to recover from an illness or injury. We grieve, often without thinking about it as emotion and our physical needs determine our progress. We are all resilient to some extent. If we weren’t able to bounce back after difficulties, we would not be able to survive. So, we do, we begin again in our new normal, we find a way to function, hopefully happily after bad things happen. And, we do it at our pace.
I am an extremely resilient person but does that make me better or worse than you who may take more time to recover? No. It makes me different. And, be mindful of this too when you see a grieving friend. What you see may not indicate how they feel inside. Yes, I was at that party but was I simply “over” losing my dad? Of course not. I’m not sure we ever “get over” the loss of any loved one. We just learn to move on, to live in the new normal. It’s not that I didn’t experience pain. I did and it was acute. But I was able to function through it, to put it away from time to time so I could function as a friend, a wife, a mother. Perhaps I didn’t go through the expected “stages” of grief but I’m not convinced everyone does.
I am convinced that making peace with a loved one before his or her death helps mitigate the loss and make the grieving process easier. But even without that, because not everyone gets the gift of peace, you can work toward resilience. Above all, though, the goal is not to judge how quickly anyone (including yourself) bounces back. I hear comments sometimes about how someone fell in love again too quickly after losing a spouse or went back to work too soon after losing a child and I am aghast. Who are we to judge the pain of others? Who are we to determine what is right in so personal a process?
Respect grief in all of its forms and speeds. Let others know you support them in their journey. There is no one path to peace. It may be a long and winding road. It may be a straight shot to recovery. We get there in our own way… but we do get there and it’s okay.