I’ve come a long away since my mother’s death. As I move forward in my life and career, sometimes I am met with an empty feeling because I can’t share my success with those who are no longer in my life.
These tips help me cope and could work for you if you end up in a similar situation.
1) Prepare for the event as best as you can
My mother chose to end her life around three months before I graduated from college. This was probably one of the hardest parts of her death for me. I had talked with my therapist at the time to see what I could do so I wouldn’t have a breakdown and running out of the auditorium. He said one way to help would be to get it out before the event. I’ll be honest, I ugly-cried while getting ready (and ended up re-doing my makeup four times). I shed a few tears while sitting there waiting for my name to be called, while I pushed back the rest. And I survived that day.
2) Think of what they would say
This is one where I recommend you only use it if it’s helpful. It can be used in both successes and challenges. My relationship with my late mother was very unique. We fought a lot but still loved each other. Sometimes thinking of what she would say makes me believe she would be negative, and I can use that as motivation. Sometimes, it will be this great “I’m proud of you” speech, and I’ll cry knowing I’m making her proud. Either way, I have something to push me.
3) Talk to someone else
I found a lot of peace came from spending time with my mom’s older sister. My aunt was she was someone who I could talk to about my mom without feeling like I was wrong. In a way, it was another avenue for me to remember her. Having a therapist helped a lot too during those first few months. It was so easy for me to spiral into bad thoughts and self-blame over everything. When I lost my job, I literally felt like I was dying and all I wanted was for my mom to hug me. That wasn’t possible. What was possible was turning to friends and family, or talking to my therapist about how devastated I was.
Unfortunately, there is no uniform way to deal with grief. What works for one person may not help you at all. Just do what feels right. If avoiding the situation (like skipping the graduation ceremony) helps, do it. If you score that job, it’s your choice if you want to keep with tradition or make a new one (like going somewhere new or to the same place to celebrate). What matters most is how you feel when you do it. Grief is hard enough; never feel like you have to live up to someone else’s expectations with it.