So many self-help books tell you how to deal with your parent’s death if it was a good relationship. What if it wasn’t good? What if it was actually terrible?
If your parents were less than ideal, you aren’t alone, it just feels like it. Parents are people, and people aren’t perfect, so it is logical that not all parents are up to the task. However, when a self-help book assumes you are sad and distraught because your “pillar of the family” or “chief cheerleader” dies, you may be feeling even more lost. Your feelings don’t match up with what it says in the book.
Sometimes your grief comes from the fact that you are now doubly missing a parent. The person who gave birth to you is now no longer physically present, when they never were emotionally present. When an emotionally distant or abusive parent dies there is no longer any hope of having a healthy relationship with her or him.
There are a lot of conflicting emotions when your parents die, and it is made even worse when self-help books make you feel like something is wrong with you in particular. It is like opening up an instruction manual on how to put together a piece of furniture and the box is missing the bag of nuts and bolts. You don’t have everything necessary to make it work. The instruction booklet assumes you do. The booklet plunges on, assuming you have all the parts. You read along, trying to make it work, trying to learn how to heal this rift, this grief, and all along you didn’t start out on the same ground that it assumes you did. When you get to the end, the picture of the finished product looks nothing like your result. It can’t. You are missing some important parts that hold things together. It is important to honor your feelings as they are, and not what some manual tells you they should be.