Day Thirty: The Legitimacy of Grief

Sad Smiley Face. 

A friend came up to me yesterday and told me that she just learned my Mom passed away.
I had picked up my kids from camp, and we happen to be lounging in the back of our parked car with the hatchback door open, eating ice cream cones and popsicles from the nearby ice cream truck. I wasn't expecting anyone to express their condolences--I truly thought the whole world knew that my Mom died by now--and the whole situation caught me off guard. I could tell that my friend was sincere and a maybe a little guilt-ridden for not knowing sooner, so I wasn't mad for the reality check.

But as we stood there in the parking lot, it was clear that she had something else to say. It turns out that her husband's father is dying of cancer. And all the emotions that I felt on the day my Mom died came rushing out of me. I wanted to comfort my friend because I know. I simply know. She asked me for advice on how to help her husband, but it seemed that she was overlooking her own feelings, her own grief for someone that, although is not related by blood, is very special to her.

Sometimes I forget about other people who are not my sisters or Dad that feel the emptiness where my Mom used to exist. But we were not the only people that populated her world. There are others who loved my Mom; they have a right to their feelings of grief and to grieve openly as well. I think of my brother-in-law Victor, someone who had a long relationship with my Mom. She saw him grow up in the span of 25 years, and he was like a true son to her. It was wrong to have overlooked his sadness and his loss during the funeral. It was wrong to have shooed him out of our Mom's hospital room when my sisters and I were discussing our Mom's condition. We were so caught up in our swelling emotions that everything and everyone else didn't matter. But it does, and they do. The passing of a loved one shouldn't cause more pain.

This is my advice to my friend: Allow your husband to grieve for his father. Give him his space, and allow him all the irrational, insensitive blurts and blunders that he will exhibit in the weeks/months to come. But make it known that you are grieving, too. And don't be shy about it. He needs to acknowledge this, even if it's in the smallest of gestures.

Grief can be a selfish emotion. But we don't have to act selfishly when we grieve.