Five or so years after my dad had passed, I was a sixteen year old girl, treading the deep waters of talking to boys and trying to figure them out.
He (let’s call him Robert) wasn’t the first boy that expressed return interest in me, but that didn’t make it easier to accept the fact that my daddy could never meet him, or put the fear of God in him the first time he picked me up for a date.
As with any new relationship (friendship or otherwise) I knew I had to break the news at some point.
His initial reaction was not altogether shocking. I had simply mentioned how my father was six feet, five inches tall, to which Robert responded something along the lines of, “‘Was’? Is he dead?” Charming, I know, but at the time I appreciated the transparency. I told him that yes, he passed away when I was eleven, and we went on to other conversations that are too distant for me to remember now.
At this point I thought I was out of the woods — he knew about my dad and I could talk about him without the awkward misunderstanding that he was still alive.
I’ll never forget the next time I did, however. The specifics of the conversation have left me, but the feelings it evoked still haunt me. Robert and I were still trying to get to know one another and it is only natural to expect stories about family members to come up. I simply wanted to share a memory I had about my father, but Robert let me know that it made him uncomfortable to talk about and he would prefer that I kept those stories to myself.
Needless to say, “Robert” is no longer a part of my life.
I found that being unwilling to talk about my dead father as if he is some taboo, untouchable subject that deserves to stay shoved under the rug is quite the deal breaker for me. Luckily, Robert and I were young and uncommitted, and heartbreak was minimal. But I don’t ever want anyone to feel as though sharing memories about your loved ones is wrong because other people may become uncomfortable.
Yes, it is uncomfortable the first time someone reveals their loss to you. You are unsure of where they’re at in the grieving process, whether or not you’re bringing up painful memories, or even of what to say.
However, please try to get where they’re coming from. They’ve probably been waiting for just the right moment to tell you, and they finally trust you enough and feel that you’re ready to handle the truth. Being confident in sharing the story, doesn’t mean they aren’t also bombarded with all these other thoughts: But what if they’re not ready? What if it makes them go running? What if they don’t want to deal with the baggage that comes along from being a teenage girl with “daddy issues”? What if it makes them uncomfortable?
I’m not a sixteen-year-old girl anymore.
Quite frankly, I don’t really care how uncomfortable you are with my father’s death, because you didn’t have to go through it.
You weren’t at the funeral, you didn’t walk down the aisle of the church after his casket, you didn’t wake up crying in the middle of the night because you finally remembered that you will one day have a wedding, and he will not be there to take on that aisle with you.
Those things were all uncomfortable for me, but they are integral parts of who I am.
And if I thought you were special enough for me to share some of my happiest memories with, and you tell me to stop because you feel uncomfortable, I can promise I won’t be sharing anything with you ever again.
Your friend and loved one’s grieving process is about them, not you. If they want to share happy memories that you are uncomfortable with, please try to remember how your response may affect them. You have the power to either allow them to open up and move closer toward healing, or simply shut them down.
I have lots of happy memories that I can share about my favorite man, and I’m just not sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.
So many for everything Rachelle said. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments!