“F*ck Your feelings” AKA – How To Support Your Partner When They Lose A Parent

written by Elizabeth Vernengo
How to support your partner when they lose a parent

You know what’s awkward? Those first few months of dating someone. You know what’s awkward-er? Your mom suddenly passing away during that same time period. *TK and I had just started dating in October, and our relationship was still in its infancy stage when my mom got sick and passed away by the end of January. I called him sobbing in the middle of the night when she first went to the hospital and I assumed by the next morning that I had effectively freaked him out enough to call it off, understandably.

But he continued to reach out and check in on me, and I realized that I needed that touchstone. I had left the City so that I could be at the hospital with my mom. I was living out of a duffel bag, wearing the same two outfits on repeat, not eating, and not sleeping. The nightly phone call/check in conversation was a much-needed break from my new “normal” at that point.

When she was eventually removed from life support on a Friday, he called me the following morning to ask “is she still here all on her own?” And at that point, she was – for whatever reason, the question itself brought me comfort.

The week after her death was a complete blur, as I threw myself into funeral planning and wrapping up my mom’s loose ends. At some point I remember TK driving out from the Bay Area. He didn’t ask, he just called telling me he was on his way. The distraction was welcome and when it came time for her funeral he asked me if I wanted him there. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t. I knew it was too new – too many friends and family asking questions and wanting to know about our future (hello pressure) and I wouldn’t be able to talk to him at all. I had stayed up the whole night before baking lemon squares for the reception and writing her eulogy – I was so damn looped out the next day that any social energy I had was all used up shaking hands and comforting people (how do you end up comforting people at your own mother’s funeral?? Grief is a bitch). So, I was grateful in that moment that he gave me space.

There is never a moment to be more selfless than when your partner is suffering a major loss. He may have wanted to come to the funeral, he may have wanted more of my time and energy during the whole ordeal but at the end of the day it just didn’t matter.

One of my good friends experienced this from the other side – her fiancé’s mother passed away about 3 months before their wedding. She knew that in that moment, she needed to retreat to the corners and just step in when asked. At some point she started feeling insecure because he wasn’t really talking to her, and she realized right then and there, none of it mattered. F*ck her feelings – she just needed to be there, be supportive, and be ready for whatever he might throw her way. Grabbing food, babysitting her soon-to-be nieces and nephews, letting people cry, pray – WHATEVER was thrown her way.

For me, I wanted to go to restaurants my mom liked in the City and tell non-stop stories about her. TK went, and listened. We even waited for 45 minutes to get into Swan Oyster Depot for lunch one day, and when we did the first thing I spotted behind the counter was a Santa Figurine (in February), dressed up to look like an Italian fisherman. My mom had the same one, she would put it out in the kitchen during Christmas time. In that moment, I felt like she was there with me. I continue to seek those moments out every day, regardless of what I’m doing or who I’m with.

There were days where I felt awful and insecure because he had started dating a happy girl who had a close relationship with her mom, and then I turned into the perpetually sad girl who cried every day. I thought he wouldn’t like me anymore and that I should just push him away. For all my efforts, he embraced everything – my sadness, my tears, my misdirected anger. Just know that there will be A LOT of misdirected anger, try not to take it too personally. Remember – f*ck your feelings.

Death is the ultimate breakup. So, if your partner is going through this heartbreak – “f*ck your feelings” and just be ready for whatever comes your way. If you’re the one experiencing this loss, remember this – you have room to grieve, you have room to be selfish right now, and you can ask for what you want or need. Don’t feel like you have to worry about how your partner is feeling. There’s only so much energy you can expend and this is not the time for you to worry about anyone other than yourself, besides – one day it will be your turn to support them.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent

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