How should I be feeling when I’ve lost my Mum or Dad?
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen quite a few of the google searches that led people to my blog being about how people feel after they’ve lost their Mum or their Dad and how they think they are supposed to feel….and the great difference between the two. So I decided to write about this topic.
What are you supposed to feel?
There are very clear expectations on you when you are grieving about what you will be feeling. Everybody has a fair idea about what emotions you expect someone who has lost a parent or someone close to them to go through, right? Like sadness, numbness, emptiness, anger. You’ll miss them. You might be incredibly distraught. But one thing is for sure – it’s all negative, painful stuff and you’ll definitely go through it.
Isn’t that true?
One of the biggest problems around grief and one of the biggest reasons people can get stuck there is, very simply, that they aren’t able to be honest about their emotions. There are a lot of feelings they can’t admit to themselves, let alone to others.
Most professionals in this area will talk about the pain, the overwhelming sadness, etc. They’ll talk about the inevitable stages that you’ll go through when grieving. I have to point out now that I don’t prescribe to the (though often challenged these days) established 5 or 7 stage model of grieving. I’ve been through enough of it and worked with enough grieving people to have seen that sure, if you don’t admit how you are truly feeling, don’t resolves some of the emotions, and leave all of those deep questions unanswered then yeah, you will be stuck in a long process that may see you through some of those stages eventually finding yourself in something called acceptance, because you really can’t find any other place to go.
But a HUGE part of what goes on for people when they are grieving is that they are feeling all sorts of emotions that they don’t believe they are supposed to be feeling and they push them down and get stuck where they are.
What are you really feeling?
If there is one thing, just one thing, that you take away from this blog today and into your own experience it is this – honesty. Don’t lie to yourself about how you are feeling. You will be feeling all sorts of different emotions and denying some of those can cause you a lot more pain.
So I am going to make an honest list of some of the things you might be feeling:
- And many, many more…….
You may feel an emotional wreck. Or you may feel ok. You may be thinking about them a lot. Or you may not. Or you might flick from one to the other. These emotions listed above are not stages that you will go through. Don’t assume that the negative ones are the ones you go through first and the positive ones are the ones you end up at. Some of the list above might look shocking to you but these are all very valid and very natural emotional responses that go on when you’ve lost a parent. You can be feeling a bunch or all of these at once about different aspects of the death.
The negative ones are the ones you are expected to feel and that you might feel bad about if you aren’t feeling them or feeling enough of them. The positive ones are the ones that will cause you the most turmoil because nobody tells you that you might feel these, and they certainly don’t tell you it is ok to. And the guilt that comes from feeling emotions you think you aren’t supposed to is immense. And this guilt can eat you up, all the while passing itself off as part of your grief.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel
Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling and know it is absolutely ok whatever way you are feeling/responding to the loss of your parent. If you feel ok, or you feel devastated, or you feel a bit of relief, then admit that to yourself. There are very good reasons why you will feel each of these things. And I’ll let you in on a secret – you aren’t the only one feeling this over a loss. You just might be one of the few that own up to it.
The simple act of truly acknowledging what is going on for you and knowing it is ok can make a profound difference to your experience after losing a parent.
As with many of my blogs there is so very much more I could write on this topic and at some stage I will do a series of blogs covering each of the big emotions separately, particularly the more challenging ones.
If you are struggling with some of the emotions you are feeling about your mum or dad that you’ve lost, or making sense of the way you are feeling, feel free to get in touch with me.