My dad passed away when I was 19 years old. Although his heart wasn't the healthiest in the world, it was unexpected and happened quite quickly over a two week time period. Losing a parent is certainly a natural progression in life, but losing a parent in your teens or twenties will undoubtedly change the course of your life. At that age, it may feel like none of your friends can relate to what you're feeling. Although I had wonderful friends who were always there to lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen, I know I certainly felt that way.
Next June will mark 10 years since losing my dad. For a long time, it felt like life was getting harder, sadder and more lonely by the minute. I'm here to tell you that a turn will eventually come, but it won't be immediate. Until that turn, I have some advice from someone who has been through exactly what you're going through.
1. You Have to Take The Time To Let Yourself Grieve.
I would imagine that most of those who lose a parent at a young age, won't do this. You will spend a good chunk of your time trying to console your family, and it will give you a sense of purpose for a little while, which is good. Watch over them, but know that they'll be ok with time. Remember to do what you need to do as well. You don't have to be strong 24/7, that'll give you a panic attack holding that kind of emotion in. (True story, I had more of those than I care to admit!)
2. Do whatever you need to do to feel normal again.
I remember hearing about a high school classmate who lost his father about a month before I lost mine. His dad had passed away in a tragic accident while repairing homes after Katrina. I heard that my classmate was going back to college just a week after his dad had died. I couldn't imagine how he was able to do that so soon?
Wrong. Do absolutelywhatever it is you need to do. If you need to stay on the couch for a month, stay on the couch for a month. If you want to get back to work and a routine, get back to work. If you want to travel the world, travel the world. Don't let anyone tell you how you should be grieving, as long as you're safe and not putting yourself in harms way.
3. People aren't going to know what to say to you
There is no right or wrong thing to say to someone who has just lost a major part of their life, but people simply just have no idea where to begin. I've been through it and I still don't know what to say to someone who has just had their life shattered. If someone is there, if someone is calling, if someone is messaging, it doesn't matter what their words are. Know they are trying and present, all in an effort to support YOU. Don't get jaded, it's very hard to know the proper words to say. Sometimes there are no proper words, there is only a hug and silence.
4. Know that you'll close some chapters, and that's ok
Relationships, and I mean very important relationships in your life, will end because of this. Not because of them, but because of you. You're going to change, and you'll feel like you can't figure out how to communicate with certain people in your life any longer. You'll go through a period of anger that will blind you to the fact that people in your life are trying the best they can, but all you can see is the face of someone that can't relate the way that you need them to relate. I had a very serious boyfriend when I lost my dad, and although we stayed together for another year after, it was never the same. I wish nothing but happiness for him, and I hate that I had to end it, but I did. Please try and remember that with every chapter that closes, a new one begins.
5. You're going to reach an angry stage, try and see it in a different light
This may sound corny, but one of the biggest things that helped me was changing my mindset to realize I now have a very personal ally in heaven. Too many things have happened to me over the last 10 years that literally make my jaw drop. From my car accident, to the exact timing of meeting CB. It all blows my mind.
6. You're going to reach an angry stage, try and see it in a different light (part 2)
Friendships emerge that you didn't realize were as powerful as they are. This part is really cool. There will without a doubt be friends who step up when you most need them, without being asked. Friendships you never realized were as meaningful as they are. These friends will be in your life forever, treasure them.
7. Try Reading Books
My biggest question that was constantly on my mind was, "Where is dad now? Can he see me?" I'm of course well aware that this book is fiction, but reading, "The 5 People You Meet in Heaven" was a wonderful turning point for me. It simply supplied my overactive mind with an idea of life after death, and that was all I needed.
8. Although it might feel this way at first, being sad isn't a tribute to your loved one.
You'll be happy again.Here I am, 9 years later, and I'm happy every single day. A day will come where your sadness and anger changes, and is replaced by happy memories from the time you did have. You won't know it when that day happens, but you'll have an OMG moment, realizing that you haven't cried in weeks.
Certain things will trigger tears for the rest of your life -- for me that's a father walking his daughter down the aisle, heck I just cried typing that -- but you'll be happy again. Honor them by living the best, happiest, most fulfilling life you can. You know darn well that is what they want.