Monday, June 4, 2007

if your friends parent died

Things that helped me after my mom died.

There was the crisis time, the time when she was dieing, and then dead. That part I will talk about later. What I want to talk about here is the later time. People forget that it is not a quick recovery. What I am talking about here is 6 months later, a year later, two years later, now.

One of the saddest suckiest things was that no one wanted to talk about it. I don't know what it is that makes people so afraid. Actually, I do kind of know because one of my friends had a parent die recently, and I feel some of the things other people must have felt around me. Like I'll say the wrong thing, or maybe it is not a good time to talk about it, I don't want to pry, I don't want to make her think about it if she doesn't want to.

but the thing I remember is I was always thinking about it. I was afraid to talk about it would be burdening people. I didn't know what to say, where to begin, what was important, what was too much for someone else to hear. I didn't want to talk if someone didn't want to know and I felt like no one really wanted to know.

If you are the friend of someone whos parent has died, try and think of how you can get yourself to a place inside your self where you want to know. try and figure out how to hear about it without it being a burden. Your parents will die someday too. It is part of our existance that is pushed away but so real. It needs space to be seen. It need space to be heard and experienced not just in our isolation.

If it is mothers day or fathers day, aknowledge it. If it is the anniversary of the parents death, remember and say something. If you are hanging out with your friend with a bunch of people and everyone's talking about parents and your friend is quiet, talk with her, later or then. at least tell her that you felt it too, the loss, the uncomfortableness, the empty space, the bitterness.

Make time to ask questions. For me, the first year was so uncomprehendable, and after the year came the time when I was really ready to talk, when I really needed to talk and the truth was, no one remembered. For everyone else, they were glad the crisis was over and they could finally get a break. It was over for them. For me, I needed to start peeling back the sadness and anger. I needed to remember the good things and say them outloud. I needed witness to our history. I needed friends.

Once a roommate out of the blue made breakfest, cleaned the house, got everyone else outside and quiet. He said "I was thinking about your mom when I woke up and I wanted to do something for you."

Once someone said, "I was too afraid to ask you about your mom when you were having such a hard time, and I'm sorry. But I do have so many things I wonder about your relationship with her. I realized I don't know anything about it really. but I'm afraid to ask you questions because I'm afraid it'll be prying." I said it wasn't prying. I said, "what do you want to know?"

There is relief that comes from talking. There is relief that comes from finding out that what may seem like the hugest burden in the world doesn't turn in to a burden for someone else if I say it outloud. Like the details of my moms disintegration. When I got back from the hospital, I tried to tell my one friend, and he said shhh. He was not able to hear. But later, I told someone else and they heard it fine. They let me cry. They were not crushed by it at all.

Around anniversary time, I like it when someone else figures out something for me to do. Not anything too elaborate. It's just that left to myself, I will get angry or disassociated and I will "forget" and try and push it away, and then I'll remember and get sad and angry at myself. I like to be taken to the woods, may be just for an hour or two. Swimming maybe, or where there is something special and beautiful. I like it when someone cooks for me. comes into my room if I am not leaving it. leaves a little note saying something - I am here for you. I will be here all day if you need me. I will be back at 7, I will be in the garden. I am baking you cake, I am thinking about you, I am sad for you I am angry for you I am wishing and thinking and amazed at your survival. I wish I had known her, I wish I had been able to be there to help you. I wish you didn't have to do so much of all of that and all of this alone. I want to figure out how to be a better friend to you, and I am going to figure it out. I am loving you.
Leave me a note if it's ok if I come in.
Circle what you think you might need

for me to come and hold you
for me to stay outside your door but play you some music
for me to play music to you inside your room
for me to ask you questions
for me to just be near and silent
for me to hold your hand while you call your other family
to talk about the rest of the family
to go outside and scream
to go outside and talk about anything but this death
to get away from here
go to a movie
some kind of ceremony
to get the rest of the roommates out of the house
to get the rest of the roommates to stop giving you uncomfortable looks
to get people to stop trying to cheer you up
to tell everyone else that this is the anniversary day
to tell you that all the mixed things you feel are ok
to tell you the things I love about you
to tell you that this is the worst thing you'll ever know
to tell you that I want to know everything. it is not a burden.

circle what you think you might need. or write more. I want to be here for you. I want to be your friend.


Nine said...

I am so glad to have read this. You posted it the day before the second anniversary of my mum's death. Two years on it's kind of easier to deal with in general, but harder to know what to say about it. Thank you.

Mayhem said...

thank you so much for posting this. it's been about 9 months since my father passed away, and the really hard stuff is coming now. when he passed, my friends were so there for me, they were so good but i was tough as nails and had no idea that the whole event had even affected me, thinking i was so strong for moving on so quickly. 9 months later and it's all unraveling, and just as it was unraveling, i read this. thank you so much. it touched me to the core.

John said...

Thank you so much for this very thoughtful and touching post.

NeneCore said...

I dont know how to thanks you for posting this. This years the of my friends parents died, and i didnt know how to react, what i was doing right or wrong. Now i know exactly what to do.
Thank u so much for this!

NeneCore said...

Sorry! I was too excited writtin hahahahah and i dont even understand what i said, what i meant was that some of my friends parents died, and now i know what to do for them (: thank u for posting this^^

seahorse arts said...


i don't know how often you read these responses, but i hope you get this since i cannot find your email address anywhere, and know that you're no longer working with microcosm. i volunteer at bluestocking in nyc & i read this post a couple of years ago in "the worst" a zine about grief and loss. i didn't understand-couldn't understand, fully-until my father passed away last month. the day after christmas.

i'm now curating a creative journal whose first issue deals with loss in every dimension: loss of ourselves to time, to community, to a cause, loss of ourselves to others (for better or worse), loss of others to others, loss of others to time. loss of opportunity, and missed opportunities, and the cost of time, and loss of others to incomprehension, insecurities, the indolence of staying in a comfortable groove rather than making the effort. unrequited love and loss. depression, consumerism, illness, the things that rob us. loss to change of innocence, of the old to the new, new insights, new people, new places. i would love to feature this piece or something else of yours in this collective journal. you’re an inspiration for me, it’d mean a lot.

email me back, won’t you?