Posted by fxckfeelings on December 22, 2011Share This Post
Grief often stirs up regrets and needs, which can then weigh down your sadness with feelings of failure and make you sink further into general misery. You can’t stop having those feelings, but don’t give them equal time or heft. Grieving is about valuing what’s lost and carrying it forward, not holding onto everything until you sink. Do your grieving, and don’t let other feelings deter you or lower the value of your past or current relationships. Instead, choose to let the happy memories and important lessons push you forward in life.
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I’m having a hard time since the death of my father. I was expecting the grief to be rough, but I thought I’d reached the acceptance stage and was starting to feel better. Then I noticed that my two sisters were able to talk and share memories much more easily with one another than they could with me, and suddenly I felt more alone than ever before. My wife is supportive, but I don’t want her to feel I don’t love her by telling her I feel alone. My goal is to get over this grief.
You probably were starting to recover from losing your father, but that’s when you experienced another loss—a broken connection with the people who should be the most understanding.
When you grieve the loss of parents with your siblings, a major source of comfort is knowing that, whatever your differences, you’re the only ones who remember the world of your family home and share the experience of growing up there. With that missing, you’ve got a double source of grief.
Pain always causes vicious circles, so the biggest danger here is that your feeling of isolation will cause you to withdraw, which will confirm your isolation. Your job with grief then is to fight to keep your perspective, rather than letting pain shape it for you.
Currently, your perspective is that there were good, meaningful times growing up with your father and sisters, and there were memories worth sharing and preserving. Instead of letting hurt stop you, figure out what you want to say, interrupt your sisters, and see if they can respond. After all, you’re the only guy who remembers that time and they need you as much as you need them.
If they can’t listen, talk to your wife, and if your wife’s not available, a pet’s always a good captive audience. You have eulogies to compose for yourself about your father’s contributions and values and what you wish to carry on, and delivering them to anyone or thing willing to listen will do you a lot of good. Of course, you’re the most important listener but there are others who would benefit from hearing your words.
You can’t shorten the grief or change your sibling relationships. What you can do, however, is respect the strength it takes to live with pain and not let it push you to the sidelines or shade your memories of your dad. With all the loss in your life, you should never lose your right to grieve.
“I wish I could share memories with my sisters, but that’s not the measure of how well I’m dealing with grief or of how much I took away from my relationship with my father. I’ll continue to treasure my memories and look for ways to share them, and not expect the grief to go away until it does.”
After my mother died, there were an amazing number of people who came to her funeral and told wonderful stories about their friendships and how much they loved her. It made me feel bad, however, because she and I never really got along. We loved one another, but we really didn’t understand one another, and now we never will. The more I saw the closeness other people had with her, the more I wondered what was wrong with me. I miss her, but what I feel most sad about is never being able to have a good relationship and not being able to mourn her as well or as much as her friends do.
Don’t assume that you could have or should have improved your relationship with your mother without first looking at the evidence. After all, you know that many close relationships can’t be improved because whatever is bad about them comes from character rather than things you can change. They are what they are, or they were what they were.
If your relationship with your mother was sub-par because you didn’t try hard enough, then yes, you’ve learned a sad lesson about not waiting until it’s too late. For most people, however, the problem isn’t a lack of trying or an overdose of waiting; it’s blaming themselves for a lack of good results after lots of trying and still assuming they could have done better if they’d tried harder.
Don’t assume that, because other people didn’t have your problem with your mother, you shouldn’t have had it either. You’ll probably find evidence that you tried hard and that many, if not all, of the reasons for your distance were not under her control or yours.
Like the person above, you have a double grief. You miss the mother you had and you also grieve the mother you could never have. It’s a grief you can’t share, because others, especially those who really connected with your mother, don’t understand.
Don’t feel bad then about not feeling bad the way they do. Your grief for her, like your relationship, is what it is. Instead of examining what was wrong, try to remember what worked. Hopefully, in spite of her disappointment with you, she did you some good and tried to be a good mother, and, hopefully, in spite of your frustration with her, you kept your life on track and spared her your anger. These are major accomplishments that need to be celebrated, particularly since they lead more often to tooth-grinding than to pleasure.
Celebrate the strength it takes to make the best of a bad relationship. Hopefully, some of that strength was hers, as well as yours.
“I often felt like a failure because I didn’t feel as positively about my mother as other people did, but I’ve come to accept that those feelings are not under my control and to respect what I’ve done with them. My job, now that she’s dead, is to do more of the same.”
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