Your questions: What do I do when the people around me start forgetting that my mum or dad has died?
Just after your mum or dad has died you tend to get quite a bit of support. At the very least most people remember that you’ve lost your parent so you get treated with a bit more sensitivity (though not by everyone). But it isn’t long at all before the people around you start forgetting…and this can make things a bit tough as a) you aren’t getting quite the same support as before and b) people won’t be as sensitive to your needs e.g. at work when the initial patience starts to wear off and people don’t immediately remember why you’re not necessarily as productive as before, or not showing up as often.
And people will ask about your mum or dad, forgetting that they have died. All sorts of people. A few months after my father’s death my brother’s girlfriend ask him what he’d get Dad for father’s day. Even better was when I returned to work just 3 weeks after my dad died and had one of my bosses ask me how my holiday was.
Why the ‘forgetters’ are useful
This might sound crazy but I found the people who forgot quite comforting. They reminded me that the world hadn’t stopped. They reminded me that the sun hadn’t stopped rising and setting, and the tides hadn’t stopped….doing whatever the tides do. And they reminded me that this was my family’s personal trauma, not everyone else’s – which is a much more realistic way to be dealing with it than expecting everyone to remember all the time, the same way that you do. The death of my father had little impact on the people I worked with and most of my friends – they didn’t lost sleep at night, they didn’t struggle at work, they weren’t grieving. It was my dad, not theirs. Expecting others to remember and be sensitive all the time just sets you up to be disappointed by…well, just about everyone.
It can become upsetting when there doesn’t seem to be the same level of support as there was in the early few weeks or months, and especially when it seems people start to lose patience and expect you to be a lot better…when you’re not. But this was another thing I liked about the people who forgot. Not only did they remind me that this my grief, not theirs, but they also reminded that that it was my job, not theirs, to keep my dad’s memory alive. And that it was my job, not theirs, to do something about my pain and grief. So I did. I tried all sorts of different therapies – granted few were anything close to useful, hence the work I do now. But I didn’t just sit with it.
So…what to do?
So maybe, once the support dies off, that might be the time to start thinking about whether it’s time for you to get a bit of assistance with this. That can sound insensitive, but believe me it isn’t. That suggestion comes not from a place of impatience, but from an understanding that the more you hurt, the less you are able to think about them, the more you forget over time. The longer you let your pain and grief carry on as it is the harder and harder it becomes to think about your mum or dad and to accurately remember them.
These days we are open to all sorts of different ways of learning and doing things. We study personal development and business, understanding that business is not conducted the same way it was years ago. We don’t just blindly see our GP and accept their word as law – instead we consult them, and do our own research, and check out more alternative or natural treatments. We don’t work out the same way we used to. We see physiotherapists, chiropractors, yoga instructors and alexander technique therapists – understanding that you don’t just have to live with physical pain anymore. We study finances and mindset around money. So why is it that when it comes to grief and death we just accept the way it’s always been? That you lose someone and there really is no way to deal with it but the passing of time or perhaps paying someone to listen to your pain…..hour after hour after hour. In other areas of life we realise that there are different, more effective ways to deal with problems and issues. Why not here?
If you are going to get help then yes, do it when you’re ready. I’m not saying dash out the next day – that would just be too soon (and a bit escapist)….but don’t wait two years, or ten years, or twenty years. There’s no need for you to be struggling with it for that long. There are other solutions, there are other answers, there are other possibilitites.
So if you’re finding that you’re getting to a point that the only person who is interested in your pain and struggle is you (and maybe your immediate family) then ask yourself if you really want to be the one holding on to this much longer. Because you don’t have to be.