My parents died two years apart, both from smoking-related illnesses. Mom died first; she had a stroke. I had done volunteer work in palliative care, so I was drawn to spend the last days of her life at her bedside. I loved my mother very much and I knew that she loved me. It was not a chore to be with her at death; it was a gift for both of us.
When she died, I cried for about fifteen seconds and then stopped myself because I felt selfish for indulging in tears. I did not cry at the grave site. I just got on to the next task at hand – my father was ill and needed my attention. I simply used booze and drugs to keep my feelings away. When my father died, I cried once, washed my face and pulled myself together. Crying seemed a sign of weakness; grieving was something for other people. Besides, I had my own methods for keeping feelings at bay.
My life continued on a downward spiral until my wife threatened to leave me unless I did something about my addiction problem. Recovery saved my marriage and probably my life. What I have learned over the years of my gradual healing is that I do have emotions, that I have to be with them in healthy ways and that I have to share them appropriately with others. My grieving process has been an on-going one. Because I have been able to be honest with myself and share with others, I am living a full, rich and happy life. I love you mom, I love you dad and I am okay.