Monday, July 18, 2011

On losing a parent.

My friend Laurel lost her mom recently. I've wanted to reach out to her, give her a little bit of space where it's okay to not be okay. I remember needing that, a lot, when my dad died. It was like the window for me to grieve publicly was closed so quickly, and I wasn't finished being sad yet. But talking about my dad just seemed to make everyone feel awkward, and my mom was in a heap on the bedroom floor, and my siblings needed clean clothes and a hot meal, so I sucked it up. And no-one really told me not to.

Earlier this year, a girl I know lost her husband unexpectedly. I tried to reach out to her. But instead of just letting her be okay, I felt like I was forcing her to open up to me, and that's just not the kind of thing you want to be doing to someone dealing with grief. (Lara, if you find your way here, I'm sorry for getting it wrong.)

You see, I keep forgetting the most basic truth about being human. Which is that we all experience common things in unique ways. I was embarrassed by my grief when my dad died. Fitting, I suppose, since he was the one who taught me that to show weakness was unacceptable. That notion is a heavy cross to carry, and I do what I can to be more human about my weaknesses than my father could be about his.

The thing I've always been good at is giving words to define situations. So often, people can't find their way out of a place if they can't name it, or put into words the way something makes them feel. That's the thing I do, to help people feel better. But Laurel can do that all on her own. And far better than I ever could have done it for her. Which is why I'm sitting here feeling redundant and unable to make a meaningful connection. Her blog is only weeks old, yet I have visited it more than many that have been around for years. It has been cathartic, to say the very least.


  1. Thanks for always having something to say MeeA :)

  2. Ah my dear Tammy, sorry it's taken me a few days to find this post - I've been so exhausted, and not online much. Is there a way to sign up for email updates on your blog? Feeling clumsy but not finding it. A friend has lent me a book on losing a parent, focused centrally on losing a parent as a teenager. I'm not sure if you've read one, but if not can I send you a copy?

    I am not one for regrets, but I can't help a powerful feeling of wishing I had known how to be there for you back then. I was just so clueless, and probably wrapped up in myself too. I want to reach back to teenage Tammy and give her hugs, and tea, and hours of space to cry and talk and rant and rage... but maybe we can still do that for each other. We don't know each other well, but spending time with Cate over these past years and hearing her speak of you with such warmth has made me want to get to know you better, and it's not too long before we'll be back in KZN and we can get our little monkeys together for some mud-throwing and general shenanigans...

  3. M brother died when I was 14. For twenty tears I felt Luke I couldn't speak about my grief. My parents were flattened and therefore somewhat unavailable. What a lovely post. Thank you.