My Dad Existed! Talk about Him!
"Dad" became like a bad word after my dad died. No one would mention their fathers, or mine, in front of me, and I hated it.
When my dad died, none of my friends had lost a parent, so they were mostly guessing about how to help me. A lot of times, they guessed correctly, but there were also many times that they incorrectly thought something would help me.
One of these times happened a few weeks after my dad died. I was talking with some of my friends at school when one of them started to tell a story.
"Okay, so, my dad..." she suddenly stopped talking after just these few words, and looked at me, alarmed. "Oh my gosh, Natalie, I'm so sorry!"
I was confused at first. She had literally just said four words, and I was pretty sure she hadn't meant them as an insult. The only thing that she had said was that her.... oh. I finally got it. She was apologizing because she was talking about her dad, because my dad was gone.
"You can talk about your dad," I said, and convinced her to continue.
About then was when I realized that I had heard little about my friend's dads in the past few weeks. While my friends and I didn't talk about our parents 24/7, there was always an occasional mention of them in conversations, and there had been no such mention lately. My friends hadn't even really talked about my dad since the initial shock wore off. It was like the word "dad" had become a bad word in my friend group, one which everyone tried not to say in front of me.
My friends meant well by not talking about their dads, and mine, in front of me. They still checked in on me and made sure that I was okay, and were just trying to protect me and make me feel better. That actually made me feel a lot worse, though.
Every time someone avoided talking about their fathers, or mine, I wanted to scream: "My dad existed! Yes, he isn't here now, but he was here! He was a person!"
Like my friends, many people assume that hearing about someone you've lost is painful and terrible. And yes, that is partially true, but in my experience I've found that not hearing about them is equally, if not more, painful. I wanted to talk about him because he had been there, even if he wasn't anymore. I wanted to tell my friends about him, learn more about who he was, and acknowledge that, even though he wasn't there, he had been a real person. Everything he did and said still impacted me, and he still was a real person, even though he wasn't alive anymore.
If you know someone is grieving, let me just say something that they may have not told you yet: It's okay to talk about their loved one. Unless they specifically asked you to avoid talking about anything related to them, it's really good to hear about the people we've lost. If you're grieving and none of your friends are talking about your loved one, ask them to. Like most things, it's as simple as one sentence to let your friends know what's going on.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.