It was only when I saw this meme from the day of the Royal Wedding that it really got me.
As I’ve mentioned a few times before my Dad passed away when I was just 13. I never used to be able to speak about it, it was something I really, really struggled with. Not death itself, the concept of the death of a parent when you’re young. It was only in 2014, a whole 10 years after my Dad’s death that I became able to open up about it. This October marks the year I’ve been dreading the most. The year that he has been gone for longer in my life than he was here in it. It got me really thinking about the things people don’t realise about losing a parent when you’re young.
Before I get really into it, similarly to Prince Harry, I struggled with my grief of loss and at that time (the late 90s-early 2000s) there just wasn’t that level of support and understanding there for child bereavement. Regardless of who you were, or the finance for such support. It just wasn’t available. I feel though, with the acceptance of Mental Health and a more open society access to information and a push for help is more prevalent now than ever. Children experiencing parental loss in society today have many outlets they can seek professional information and help from.
They aren’t here for ‘things’
For Christmasses, birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings, the birth of children. They just aren’t here. When people who haven’t lost a parent say ‘oh he’ll be looking down so proud right now’, you do realise it’s not the same? Like, I just want my Dad to be here, celebrating major milestones in my life with me. Not looking down.
Your other parent becomes a superhero
My Mum, I mean she deserves a medal, doesn’t she? She’s played the role of both Mum and Dad for nearly 14 years, for nearly half of my life. Through no choice of her own. I don’t think people understand just how monumental that is. ‘It must have been hard for her as a single parent’. A single parent? Is that what we’re calling somebody who has to raise a child (or children) alone because of a death?
Fun fact: They did not choose to be single, they did not choose to have to deal with their own grief and their child’s grief simultaneously. They did not wish for this curveball in their life.
Don’t use this term flippantly (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a single parent before the correction police come out in full force). These parents aren’t single parents, they’re parents who have had looked extreme adversity in the eye and have had no choice whatsoever but to raise these children without both parents due to circumstances beyond their control.
Most of the time, just like the children who have lost a parent. The people around the living parent don’t know how to deal with the situation. Offer them a helping hand without being patronising. Can you take the kids out for the day to give them some me time? What can you do for them? Remember they have to be the support network for the children who have lost their parent. Especially difficult when their children are teenagers and have far more hormones than needed to deal with loss.
The grief is different
Losing a parent young, or at any time embodies a whole different grief to that of any other death. I feel perfectly qualified (without fancy degrees and certificates) in terms of life experience to say this. I’ve been to more funerals than I have had hot dinners. Trust me that’s a lot. There’s absolutely no grief comparable to losing a parent. Fact.
I’m not playing the top trumps of grief here, I’m merely stating that without your parent, you’d have not existed. I think that bond alone is the hardest hitter.
I lost my Dad and Granda within 4 years of each other (probably why I have trust and abandonment issues – cheers lads) and although the grief for both of them was equally as horrendous, I know that my Dad’s death traumatised me more. Because it was unexpected? Perhaps because he was in his 40s? Because I never got to say goodbye? No, because he was my Dad. Similarly, I understand my Mum’s grief for my Granda based on this.
Bitching about your parents does not wash
Telling me you won’t let your children see your Mum because of XY and Z or that your Dad is a waste of space really doesn’t wash. The worst one I’ve heard ‘I wouldn’t even go to my own Dad’s funeral’ – can you imagine how I felt when I heard that? I had to make a sharp exit from the room because I feared I’d end up putting this person in their own coffin with that remark.
Bitching about your parents does not wash with me. Can you imagine having a happy family, full of loads of memories and having that shattered by death? Then having to listen to people tear apart somebody in their life that you haven’t got in your life? It stings. I’m not going to lie. It really hurts.
Think about your audience the next time you are giving a recount of a story about how you detest your Dad or want to murder your Mum. I little bit of empathy goes a long way.
Always appreciate what you have, because one day it’ll be only a memory.
People just DON’T think, it’s not a ‘club’ I want to be part of
Can I return my membership? Exchange it for a lifetime of Princess Club Class or something a little less morbid than the ‘club’ I’m in, please?
First of all, if you’ve experienced parental loss at any age you’re part of this mutual understanding. If you’ve experienced parental loss at a young age it becomes a stronger understanding. Or so I’ve found. There’s no way to explain your emotions and there’s nobody who quite understands your pain like somebody in the ‘My parent died club’. We don’t need to talk about it, we don’t need to say much. We just know and understand the pain of loss and the pain of the flippant comments and lack of thought and compassion from those who are not part of this club.
I’m no way advocating this ‘club’ and hope that if you’re reading this with 100% of your parents intact that you don’t have to experience it for the foreseeable future.
Of course, we’d give everything we possibly can for even just one more day with our loved ones. We can’t though and daily we are reminded of this! Try and make our lives a little less painful by thinking before you speak. Please.
Understand why I don’t embrace ‘Father’s Day’
I’ve got a bloody amazing Granda, trust me. People say they have the best grandparents but I cannot explain just how much admiration I have for him, he’s the main man in my life. Even when Father’s Day comes around, as amazing as he is, it’s just a day I really shy away from.
I love seeing people appreciating their Father’s on social media as I always think that Dad’s are under appreciated. However, and this is a huge, however, I cannot cope with the adverts, emails and whole surrounding of this day as it’s just too painful for me. Like Mother’s Day for those who have lost their Mums.
So forgive us when you’re trying to talk about what you’re doing for a day made for marketing and revenue generation purposes which just makes us feel low and sad all day.
Appreciate your Mum and Dad day in, day out. All year round. Not just one day a year.
You never ‘accept it’ or ‘get over it’
These two phrases make me facepalm. I will never ‘accept it’ that my Dad died when he was one of the most physically fit and healthy men I’ve ever known. And I certainly won’t ‘get over it’ that there are murders, rapists, awful people on this earth and these people are still living their lives while daily I have to live with the grief of losing a parent. A parent who was a good person.
You simply adapt. My Godmother was telling me about a book she has been reading. It’s a book about grief, called Option B. Basically it talks about when Option A isn’t available, you have to adapt to Option B. Our Option A isn’t here, so we must adapt to life in Option B. It’s an analogy I think really works well. Especially when trying to explain how you cope (I hate this word) when people who have never experienced parental death use them two phrases.
Another phrase to avoid please, for goodness sake, ‘I don’t know how you do it?’. Simple answer, I HAVE NO CHOICE. Trust me, if I could change things, give everything I had to change the situation, I would! Fact is, no amount of wishing, praying or hoping will ever bring somebody back. You have to adapt, there is no choice.
Sometimes the smallest of things break us
Not every day is a bad day, similarly not every day is a good day. What might not break you on a good day, certainly will break you on a bad day. Smells evoke emotions, music evokes feelings and words evoke memories. Sometimes those of us who have lost a parent have really bad days, things trigger emotions. Have patience and be accepting that sometimes it’s difficult to open up about these pain triggers. Give us five minutes, let us put on some gangster rap and let us just recalibrate.
When I tell you, please don’t say sorry
When I meet new people, and they say oh ‘Your Mum and Dad must be so proud of you?’ First of all that’s such an archaic thing to say, what if I was raised by wolves or had same-sex parents? I was neither, however you get what I’m saying. Sometimes I feel awkward saying ‘oh my Dad died when I was 13’ – literally my elevator style pitch line. I only feel awkward for the people I’m talking to because I wince at the response. Usually 99.9% of the time it’s the same.
What are you sorry for? I have spent the last 13 years and 7 months really pondering this response. So if you know the answer I’d love to hear it below! I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have lost parents young and seriously this is the one that really makes the majority of us crawl into our skin. I know people don’t know what to say, but please. This isn’t it!
You are stronger than you think
It’s taken a long time to get here. To the point, I can openly talk about losing a parent young. I’ve battled bottling it all up, I’ve battled depression and anxiety. I’ve battled so many issues but there’s one thing I’ll never conquer and it’s a blessing as well as a curse. It’s the fact I’m so fiercely independent. I hate relying on anybody because I’m scared of being disappointed.
If you’re going through any kind of grief right now, just remember it’s okay not to be okay and in time you’ll eventually adapt to the path you’ve found yourself on. We are all different. We all deal with grief differently and have different methods for trying to manage these awful series of events. Just remember you are stronger than you’ll ever give yourself credit for.