It started early last year, almost from New Year’s Day.
Friends on Facebook posted news of the death of a parent or a sibling or a friend. And while I didn’t usually know the person who died, I found myself affected.
“Another one?” I’d find myself thinking when I logged online. This was much more than the stereotypical ‘death comes in threes’ that we can debate another time. This was every week. I stopped counting how many friends lost a parent last year, something that spilled over into this year. Since my own mother died in March, there have been more, including one this week.
You might say, “Well, we’re at that age.” And you wouldn’t be wrong. Statistically, people my age should be prepared for their parents to die. But age alone didn’t explain the deaths, nor did it make them any easier.
One of the oddities of social media is that it can make you feel like everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. This went far beyond it, except in one respect: a lot of people I know really were grieving.
Some of them were very public in their grief. They posted photos of the person who died – multiple photos – and spoke eloquently of their loss. Sharing was part of the grieving process for them and I don’t criticize that at all. Others preferred to reach out via private messages – sometimes to a select group, sometimes to one friend at a time – to share information, ask for help with a task or just vent. Whatever feels appropriate is okay by me.
I do know that my friends who also lost a parent in the last year or so have found a measure of comfort in knowing that there are a lot of people ready and willing to help them. On those days when you can’t seem to stop crying, on those days when you are angry and resentful about happy family photos of people whose parents are still alive and active, on those days when you realize just how much your world has been upended…there are friends you may only know online who are willing to listen and comfort.
Many of them have already been there, done that. Some of them can’t imagine what it’s like to bury a beloved parent. But they’re willing to help you.
When you’re grieving you learn a lot about the people around you. Some will check in with you on a regular basis; others will completely disappear, only to show up unannounced. pretending nothing happened to you. Some will compare their own grief to yours, even if the two are completely unrelated; others will try to push you to ‘get over it’. Pay attention to the behavior of those around you. You’ll learn a lot (not all of it good).
So, I will continue to live with my own grief and try to help my friends with theirs. If I’ve learned anything in the past couple of years, it’s that there are friends out there ready to help you. You will certainly be surprised by who helps and who doesn’t. But rest assured, you will not be alone as long as you have the courage to reach out.