Getting married without your parents there
A new friend of mine – let’s call her Stella – is getting married this Saturday. While very excited she is also having very mixed feelings as, in the last couple of years, she has lost both of her parents and also her brother, all in pretty heart-wrenching circumstances. Her HTB (hubby-to-be) has also lost both his parents in the last few years. In fact they have had wedding dates set twice but had to change them due to the illnesses and deaths.
Stella wrote to me that while her HTB has siblings still, she has ‘no-one left’, and that they both feel very sad about not having any of the people they’ve lost at the wedding.
This could be a particularly heart-breaking day in so many ways….which would be such a shame and the last thing that the people they have lost would want for them. So what can they do to stop the day hurting them?
There is never an empty chair
I would suggest something a little different.
When you’ve lost a parent it can be really easy to focus on the empty space in your life where they used to be. The chair they used to sit in. The cup they used to use. The time you used to call them. The things they used to say to you. The seat in the front row of your wedding where they should’ve been.
But after a death there is never an empty space left in a family or in your life. It can look and feel like there is, and if you focus all your thought on that then that is what you will see. But when you take a step back and look at your life you’ll see that it’s like a swimming pool. Scoop out some water…and watch the rest rush in to fill the gap you think you’ve made.
Losing someone can create some amazing (yes I said amazing) changes in your life. But you won’t see these if you don’t look. There might be other family members that have taken on a different role for you. But it certainly doesn’t have to be family that does this. Perhaps you have become closer to your partner. Maybe there are some friends or colleagues that play a bigger role in your life now. Or new friends or acquaintances that are making a difference in your life that you didn’t have there before.
I worked with a man recently who had been painfully grieving the loss of his dad, who died when he was a teenager, for many years. Staring so long at the empty space he had always seen everything that was gone and everything he had missed out on. But when I helped him look closer he realised that after his dad died he had become closer to his mum – the most important person in his life, and that he had cemented his relationships with his step-father and his step-siblings, who mean the world to him. When he realised this he was moved to tears at what gifts he had in them and how these relationships were actually a direct impact of his dad passing away. He had a new-found appreciation for the people in his life, AND also a new-found appreciation and love for his dad and everything that had happened. He saw that there had been no empty chair, it’s just that different people were now sitting in it…but he hadn’t let himself see that before.
Life will never leave empty chairs in the front row of your life. So don’t you do it either.
My suggestion would be by all means have those beautiful pictures of both of your mums and dads in the front row…but not on empty chairs. Have some of the people you love most sit in the front and hold those pictures. Maybe other family members…or maybe some of the other people you have become closer to since the death of your parents. Maybe someone that knew and loved them or maybe some of the newer friends you have that never even met your parents. You might think people would find this odd or uncomfortable but I think you’d be surprised how touched and honoured people would be if asked to do this once you explained why – that they are so important to you, or have been such a support, or have been part of the filling of those ’empty chairs’ in your life. And that you want to remind yourself that you have new and beautiful things in your life too – not just empty spaces.
Know that even if you don’t always feel them your parents are in your hearts wherever you go. As if they’d miss your wedding! 🙂 The only thing blocking you feeling that is not their absence, but your pain.
No parent wants to be a black hole after they’ve gone. A dark empty space that sucks all the light into it. They want to be loved and remembered…and the more pain you are in the harder that is for you. Celebrate them by celebrating the lives they’ve given you and celebrating the changes and growth in your lives in the last few years.
So for Stella I would suggest, though I know you must be a headless chicken of a bride-to-be right now 😉 that you take a little bit of time – even just 5 minutes – to get out some paper, maybe with your HTB, and write down who the most important people in your lives are now, and why you are grateful for them.
This is my message to Stella and her HTB for Saturday: may you both have an amazing day to start an amazing life together. May your wedding day be filled with love and appreciation for each other, for the people that have touched your life in the past, those that touch your life now, and those that will in the future. Sending you both much love. xxxx