For years I have often wondered why I am so worried about how others feel or why I felt/feel so judged when I am grieving. Where did it stem from? A couple weeks ago I had a bit of an, ah ha moment and figured out where it started (or at least I think I know). Let me give a little bit of a back story…
When I was 13 my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer and died 10 months later, the day before my 14th birthday. This was a devastating loss for me. Before his death I lived in Tucson with my Nana and Papa, my mom lived in Phx and my brother lived with our dad. We all moved back in with each other that summer of 1997. I was so excited to get the chance to see him more, stay at his house, get to know him like my siblings got to, but that was taken away when he was diagnosed the same month we moved back to Phoenix. As a 13 year old girl you are already confused, emotional, in that in between stage of a little girl and a young lady and then your dad gets sick and slowly dies right before your eyes and you are left with the aftermath. It wasn’t an easy time in my life and is still one of the hardest things I ever went through.
I did not take his death well. I was not ok with the fact that my dad was dead. I wanted my father, especially when my mom was an alcoholic and I became the mother. I was trying to navigate his death, my mom’s drinking, me being a teenage girl all alone and I will admit that I was sad. I was lost, in a dark place, I rarely smiled, I clung onto anyone who would see me, hear me and love me. My home life was falling apart and I was suddenly thrown into the adult world at 14.
When thinking about all this I figured out when it started. One night while lying on the floor watching TV, my mom came over to me and said, “So I talked to Nana today. She told me that you need to move on, that it isn’t normal for you to still be this way about your dad.” I laid there on the verge of tears and said, why would she say that? Why would you tell me that? I was confused. The rest of that moment isn’t clear and I am not sure what was said after, but I remember how I felt. I felt shamed, confused, alone, exposed and broken, this women that I loved dearly just judged my grief. I thought it was normal to feel the way I did after a parent dies. I thought I was allowed to feel this way, cry, play songs, be sad but in that moment it all changed. I started to question my feelings, I started to hide my pain, I started to push people away, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to grieve, I felt like my pain wasn’t valid, I felt like everyone thought I was crazy, all from that one moment.
That stayed with me, I carried that with me and I feel subconsciously affected me more when Mckenna died. The moment of her death I was always concerned with what people thought, I couldn’t show my emotions, I couldn’t show my pain, I couldn’t feel my pain because everyone would think I was crazy, I couldn’t let people think I was crazy. I held onto my pain because that is what I knew to do after learning to mask it for so long.
It almost angers me because I felt I wasn’t allowed to grieve the little girl who gave me life, who was my entire world and who was ripped from my life in an instant. I felt I couldn’t express my pain because people would judge, people would label me, they would look at me differently, that matter more to me than saying, screw you I will feel this pain because I have the right. This is what angers me.I have the right to miss my daughter, my mom, my dad and who ever I want, because I love them. I was told at one point that we feel pain deeply because we love deeply. We don’t stop loving them so when they are gone we don’t stop grieving for them, we just learn to carry it and bring it into our lives.
My Nana lived in a different generation. She held her pain, but I know she loved deeply.
Don’t judge those who are grieving, it is their pain, their loss, their love that they are feeling. Just sit with them, let them talk, let them cry without judgment. That is the greatest gift you can give someone who is grieving.