There is something beautiful that happens when someone loses a parent in our society. The people that love them most show up to grieve together and to wrap the grievers in love.
Meal trains get coordinated. Thoughtful cards are delivered. Supportive texts get sent. Meaningful care packages are left on doorsteps.
Friendly faces make visits to wakes and funerals. People even check in on birthdays and holidays to make sure loved ones are OK.
Each time it happens, I am moved by the beauty of this support. My hope and faith in humanity gets a boost.
But selfishly, my own heart breaks a bit.
Because when you finally make the brave decision to end an unhealthy, abusive, or toxic relationship with your own parents while they are still living, you find the pain of that loss is a lonely experience.
There are no funerals or wakes where friends and family can mourn with you.
There is nothing to contribute to the conversations with friends when they talk about the challenges of caring for aging parents.
There is no way to convey the envy that sets in when grandparents of other children fill the basketball stands at your children’s games.
There are no words to justify to someone who (in a well-intended manner) asks, “What if you regret it and it’s too late?”
And there is no easy explanation to provide on why you hate your own birthday so much each year.
There is no permission to share with others that a parent’s birthday or anniversary might be a hard time for you.
And there is no comfort to be found when people start talking about their holiday plans with their families.
There is no way to explain the odd jealousy that creeps in when a friend has the bittersweet experience of saying goodbye to a loving parent on their deathbed.
While walking away from an toxic relationship with your parents can bring peace, comfort, and healing, often it also brings silence from those around you.
Deafening silence. No one knows what to say so often nothing gets said at all.
But the pain and the need to grieve is there because it is an ending. And the ending of any parent-child relationship is just like a death.
It is the death of any hope of a healthy future relationship with your parents. The death of any possibility for reconciliation and repair. The death of ever knowing unconditional love from a parent.
Yes, there is death even when there is no death.
But there is no space for grief.
Not for people like me.