Recently, a friend of mine lost her father after a long illness. She described his last weeks with bittersweet joy as she and her siblings had the privilege of spending precious last moments with him. During that time, he shared with them the reasons he was so proud of them and his dreams for their futures. In the final day that my friend shared with him before his death, he could no longer speak. She turned to him one last time before she left the room telling him she and her family loved him so much. He mouthed two simple words-"I know."
As she told me this story, tears welled up in my eyes. I was sitting in a beautiful setting, the edge of a dock overlooking a calm bay on a perfect July morning. I could hear my daughters and my own father in the background on the deck above me, laughing, running, and joking around. It made me think about how even though we are mothers, we were daughters first. No matter how old we get, we will always be daughters.
My friend went on to describe her range of emotions over her father's death, the issue of helping her mother transition into her new life without a partner, and the logistical details of handling someone's estate. Amidst her father's story were the details surrounding her world - taking her children to camp, getting back to work, back to her home, her husband, her life.
It occurred to me that adults are simply expected to "buck up" when a parent dies, and get back to their routines. Yet, in some ways, losing a parent as an adult is even harder because of the years you have spent with this person, in addition to the responsibility of becoming the primary caretaker to a widowed parent. Most companies, for example, offer only a few days of bereavement, when the pain, loss and responsibility of a parent passing can extend for months, or even years.
In addition, most daughters, whether they work or not, whether they have children or not, are expected to attend to an ailing parent. My friend, for example, lived six hours from her father, yet spent every weekend by his bedside in his final weeks. I know women who have dropped out of their daily lives, left their jobs, their families, and their homes for extended periods of time to be with a parent who is seriously ill. Historically, this is a calling for women who by nature take on the role of nurturing all members of their family.
So, in the end, even mothers are someone's daughter. And daughters, whether they are ten, 20 or 40, need time and space to grieve the loss of a parent.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including one on motherhood called "Smotherhood." Find her here on Mondays.