9 Things I’ve Learned Losing A Parent In My Twenties

I recently visited a medium to communicate with my late father. I don’t know if it gave me any comfort, but the visit offered me the profound understanding that so many people are still navigating the very confusing grieving process just like me, which is only complicated further when you’re young. This is what I’ve figured out (so far) from losing a parent in my twenties.

There are times when I feel alone and it’s hard to remember that I’m not. Sometimes no matter how much I’m surrounded by my wonderful friends and family, I’m still going to feel isolated. There are times I want to call my dad and ask him a question about finances or nutrition or my relationship and he can’t be there, but I have to remember that I can still talk to him (even if I sound crazy for a few minutes) and that I can connect with so many people who love me. There are so many people who are missing my dad too and they want to understand what I’m going through.

I had to find a safe place to go when I’m struggling. For me, this place has changed multiple times to my needs or zip code. Whether it’s a bookstore, the movie theater, a coffee shop, my dad’s resting place or anywhere else, it’s important for me to have a safe place to go when I’m struggling with the grieving process and I feel I need to be alone. Sometimes being in solitude and just thinking can have really grounding and positive effects.

Grieving is an independent process. I’m never going to grieve like anybody else. I’m not going to grieve at the same speed or in the same ways as anyone else because everyone has a different connection to my dad. I don’t set expectations (or let anyone set them for me) about how to deal with his death or when to stop crying. I let myself have some time to handle my parent’s death at my own pace. It’s okay not to be okay.

I can’t expect everyone to know what I’m going through. Not everyone has gone through what I have. It can be really frustrating when people just don’t get it, but it’s not their fault and I can’t blame them. Everyone endures different losses in their lives and I can’t expect them to know exactly how to talk to me or how to help me. Instead of focusing on what they can’t do, I like to focus on what they can. Maybe they can help me commemorate my dad in a special way, or even if they just hug me and listen, it can be really helpful at times.

I can’t be afraid to ask for help. When I need someone to answer those finance, life, health questions, I find someone else to ask by reaching out to other loved ones or close family friends. I even have reached out to my father’s close friends at times to ask for help with things and ask them what my dad would say. Sometimes these people can give me a better answer than I would’ve expected.

Carrying on family traditions provides some comfort. Family transcends loss. Just because my dad’s gone doesn’t mean that I should change anything about what makes our family unique. The practice to carry on something my dad used to do or make is extremely cathartic and helps me really cherish the memories I have of him.

I have to forgive myself and others. It is so easy to go back in time and look at all the events and wonder if we did something different, could things have turned out another way? I try not to go there anymore. I still do sometimes, but I try to remind myself that truly everything happens for a reason and everyone has done the best they could, including me.

My relationships sometimes get weird. Sometimes it’s hard to be at home, to see my siblings, or to even see my friends. And honestly, some of those people may not be there for me. Some of my friends definitely withdrew from my life because they weren’t ready to deal with my grief. Weirdly death breeds a rejuvenation process; some people will be there for you, others won’t. That’s okay. I’ve tried to take things as they come and know that everything will work out in the end.

Time is a commodity. Time is a precious thing and I want to spend it doing something great. I wanted to take a gap year so I did. My actions have become more intentional and I’ve realized that I don’t have people in my life forever and I don’t know how long I have to experience all the things I want to. I’ve stopped procrastinating and started going after what I want.

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