Dear 100 Hour Board,
Usually I'm more prone to asking light-hearted or silly questions, but now I find myself in need of some advice. A couple weeks ago, my mom passed away from a long, long battle with cancer. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very emotional person, and I was extremely close with my mom, yet, in the days following her passing, during the funeral and burial services, and even just in existing day-to-day, I didn't and still don't feel...sad. It's not numbness, because I do miss her a LOT, but I guess the knowledge that she isn't suffering anymore outweighs her physical absence. I am at peace with this, but my friends and family don't seem to be. They seem to think that I'm closing myself off from feeling, and while I appreciate their concern, they're kind of being overwhelming. The last thing I want is to push them away, but they don't seem to believe me when I tell them I'm really doing ok. I do not need to or want to be a weepy mess about this situation all the time, so how do I gently let my other loved ones know that I really am doing fine without them thinking that I'm just blowing them off or putting on a brave face?
First, sorry for your loss. The death of a parent is something that I actually am quite scared of; it seems like you're handling it admirably.
I don't have any personal experience to draw on for this, but it seems to me that the best thing you could do is just to keep being honest about your emotions. If they're constantly reaching out to you and asking how you're doing, it might be because they're actually struggling and they're looking for someone to commiserate with. You don't have to work yourself up and make yourself sadder than you are, but just be honest with them about how much you miss her and how that's affecting you. If they press the issue, trying to "uncover" whatever secret sadness they think you have, thank them for their concern and just reiterate that, in that aspect, you're really okay. Take some time to ponder your emotions and think about why you feel the peace you do; that should help you to be better able to explain your position to them. Pray for greater understanding of your own emotions, and pray that they'll also be able to understand you.
I'm sorry that I don't have any more specific advice, and I'm sorry that I've taken so long to get this to you; likely you've had to continue dealing with these kinds of interactions with your loved ones in the interim. I hope that you can continue to feel peace about this and also help those around you to feel peace as well.
If your loved ones are being overwhelming, I think it could be a good idea to ask for some time to yourself.
I don't know why I'm thinking of this, and I hope it doesn't come off as trying to be the same level of emotion, but I'm strongly reminded of when I first moved overseas. My sister had a roommate, Jen, who had moved all around growing up and whenever she got to a new place, she would cry really hard the first night. I got to hear a lot about Jen before I moved because I spent a month with my sister, and I pretty much planned for my experience to be the same. But then I moved and I didn't cry the first night. I don't even think I cried the first week, maybe longer. I was confused, but I was fine, and it just seemed like I was where I was supposed to be.
It was sometimes awkward, then, to talk with my sister and explain how things were going. I couldn't tell if she was hurt or disappointed that I wasn't sad, but I still didn't want to be sad if I wasn't. I think she was having a hard time with her family being so far away, and our opposite emotions didn't really mesh. But we also didn't talk too much, so I was able to process things largely on my own.
After a while, I started to cry a lot. I began to have regrets about how I had done things before and wished that I could get the time back and change things. And then I didn't know how to connect with my new surroundings and so I was just sad and mad and frustrated for about a year. After that, I got to spend a summer away and was able to return with renewed hope.
The point of all that is to say that (1) everyone processes things differently, and that's okay; (2) feelings of grief happen on different timelines, and that's okay; (3) if something is not okay, it's good to take a step back.
(1) We can't know how or what others are thinking and feeling, so I believe it is a good practice to give people room to experience it themselves. At the same time, in times of distress it is comforting to have company. I think the key to that, though, is that the company needs to be willing to be weary and sit a while.
(2) My sister was sad about my family moving before it even happened, but it took me weeks to feel that, possibly because I had to process other things first (nervousness, excitement, etc.) before I even realized there were things to be sad about. But that's me. It sounds like you've been processing the reality of your mom's situation for some time now, and so it makes sense that you've reached acceptance already. Especially if you were really close with her, then of course you're happy to not have her suffer anymore. Or, maybe not happy, but at peace, as you said. And if you feel sad later, that will also be okay. My mom lost her mother almost three years ago and she misses her all the time but generally is unaffected by that feeling. Occasionally, though, she'll be reminded of something about her and just need some time to cry. I think that's healthy for her, and that's what's most important.
(3) If those around you are causing your peaceful feelings to dissipate, I think it would be reasonable and justified for you to ask for time and space to be alone. You don't have to explain why, perhaps except that you need time to process, and I think people should be able to understand that need. Which isn't to say you should be a hermit for a month, but that it's okay to be introverted for a while. It seems like your current situation could be exhausting, so you'll need time to recharge. It sounds like your loved ones are in the midst of grieving, and you'll be a great one to help them, or to sit with them, but you first might need some space.
I hope this helps.
If you would like to talk to someone who recently lost her mom to cancer, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass you her contact info.