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What You Learn About Relationships After Losing Your Parent

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Anyone who has lost a loved one knows all too well that the grieving often begins after the funeral is over. The immediate family returns home to significant void. The night my father passed we walked into the house to find his coat hanging in the closet and his slippers next to the couch glaring at us. Golf clubs still in the garage waiting for my dad to get better for just one more round. We still awkwardly make our way around my father’s chair. Many times we think, do we sit there or not? Constant reminders of my father are scattered throughout the house. If I close my eyes and concentrate sometimes I can still hear his laugh.

Good intentions of well wishers vanish into thin air. The immediate family is left with a broken heart, a massive void and a few hefty bags of the deceased loved one’s belongings.

Every single relationship in your life is reevaluated. Friendships are now ranked by who offered condolences, who texted you, who picked up the phone and maybe even who “liked” your latest photo of your deceased loved one on social media. Did they read between the lines today and “get it?” Do they know today is the day your grief is overwhelming? Is their crystal ball working today?

Since my dad passed my entire life has evolved into a combination of countdowns and firsts. It’s been three and a half months. Meaning it’s been three and a half months since I heard my father’s voice, held his hand, kissed and hugged him. It’s been countless phone calls without hearing my father’s voice say, “It’s my Lisa Mia!” Other than my grandfather who is also passed, no one calls me Lisa Mia. It’s been my first Valentine’s Day, first Easter, now my first Mother’s Day without him. Saturday was the first time I saw my father’s name etched in stone at his grave. After some gut-wrenching sobs I blew kisses to his name, looked up at the sky and whispered, “I love you, Dad.”

Slowly, you begin to rank relationships based on who reached out to you on those firsts because you begin to realize this is your life support when the tidal waves of grief come crashing down. Grief opens your eyes to one’s true colors. You quickly learn the meaning of “actions speak louder than words.” You find yourself silently observing what a person does because it tells you who they really are.

I’m sure there are some that find this post too sobering and are one click away from the block button. I’m OK with that. But before you do, I urge you to take a peek. Lately I find myself saying, “If only I knew then what I know now.” Often times I find myself thinking of my friends who lost loved ones prior to my dad’s passing. I hope I was as supportive to them as they have been to me. Did I send a card, basket or express condolences like countless others have done for me? Or did I just pretend their loved one never died, like some have done to me? Did I pass someone by shortly after the death of their beloved loved one and not offer condolences? Gosh, I hope not because I now know how agonizing this pain is, and I now understand that as time passes you want to remember your loved one. Losing someone you love is painful.

Grieving is a personal and individual experience. But sadly, we will all grieve at one point in life. Why not be that person who picks up the phone or sends a text?

Why not be the person who is there after the storm passes?

Originally published: May 18, 2016
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