6 Surprises To Expect When Both Of Your Parents Die
Unless you're Batman, losing your parents sucks. It sucks when you're young, it sucks when you're older, it just sucks no matter what. My mom died when I was 13, my father when I was 24. I wasn't legally allowed to rent a car, but I was already an orphan, planning funerals, owning property, and doing things even my own parents never had to endure. Before your parents die, you may have this image in your head of what will happen. Unfortunately, there's a good chance it's completely inaccurate. The truth is, no one can tell you about what REALLY happens, because everyone will experience it differently. Things get weird, things get scary, sometimes they get hilarious, but regardless, nothing will prepare you for it until it actually happens.
If it helps, though, here's what it was like for me.
Planning Funerals Can Get Strange
Hopefully, your parents left a carefully detailed plan with prepaid arrangements for their funerals. Mine did not. So that meant that I got to learn the first lesson of funeral planning right up front: That shit is expensive. If you don't want to take my word for it, just look out how many GoFundMe campaigns and Kickstarter-esque pages there are for families that can't afford to bury or cremate their loved ones.
But by all means, keep helping motherfuckers make potato salad instead.
If you thought the cost of living was expensive, you haven't lived until you've had to pay for the cost of a death. Expensive funerals aside, there's also all these minor details and decisions about the funeral you have to make. What kind of food are you serving? What kind of coffin are you using? Where are you disposing of the ashes? How are you notifying people about the funeral? And how the hell are you supposed to decide on what sort of music to play?
The first Arcade Fire album?
Also, I was surprised to find that laying someone to rest is a lot like a wedding, in that my dad's friends got really mad that I didn't "invite" them to his funeral. For starters, who needs an invitation to a funeral? Further, who in the Hell is selfish enough to get mad when they don't receive one? Was I supposed to create a Facebook event for it or something? It's hard enough trying to get over the shock that your parent just died; now you suddenly become a party host. This is one of the most awkward things you'll do in your life, and if I had it my way, I would've flaked on both my parents' funerals.
You Might Not Cry (And That's OK)
Yes, it's super sad when a parent dies. You may cry. You may cry a lot. My dad was terminally ill for a few months, and it was during those months where I really just let the floodgates open. I cried in the shower, in my car, I cried myself to sleep, I cried myself awake ... I even cried over a plate of chocolate chip cookies once.
Those are the least depressing things ever.
But when my dad finally did die, I honestly did not cry much. In fact, I felt some form of relief. Seeing him sick was way harder for me emotionally.
I didn't cry at all at my mother's funeral. I cried privately a few hours after. Nowadays, 15 years after my mother's death and three years after my father's, I cry in weird moments. I drove past a McDonald's the other day and cried because I remembered my mom loved Big Macs.
Just one of many reasons a Big Mac might make a person cry.
I cried once at Costco because the rotisserie chicken section smelled like my dad's cooking. It's OK to not cry that much, and its OK to cry a lot. You're not an asshole if you do or don't. Just ride the waves of feelings and don't be too hard on yourself. Fuck what anybody else thinks. Just keep tissues handy for those tears, or if you need to sneeze or whatever. I dunno, it's just probably good to always walk around with extra tissues, no matter how sad you are.
Holidays Are The Worst
You probably already know this, but in case you don't, just a heads up: Thanksgiving will always feel a little lonely. On top of that, you'll get fewer presents on birthdays, and Mother's and Father's Days are just gonna stink in general. Holidays are hard to avoid because social media exists now and everyone you know is going to be posting about what they're doing to celebrate. You'll see pictures of their moms on Mother's Day, people will brag about the cool present their dads got them on their birthdays, and department stores will air commercials with fake happy families enjoying good times together where no one is sick or dead.
How come no one's throwing anything?
You will have to accept that holidays will sting a little, but resist the temptation to be a total downer about it. If someone invites you over to Thanksgiving, maybe accept their offer. Don't feel sorry for yourself and throw a pity party with a frozen turkey dinner.
Your dead parents don't want you to come down with salmonella any more than your intestines do.
It's no one's fault you're an orphan, and being sorry for yourself is a waste of your energy. Don't force yourself to be happy, but be open. It's also not the end of the world if you do find yourself spending Christmas alone with a frozen dinner and Netflix. That actually sounds pretty freaking sweet. Just don't wallow and feel sorry for yourself doing it.
Social Media Makes The Grieving Process Weird
One day in December, I got a pop-up notification on Facebook reminding me it was my dad's birthday. My mom died before Mark Zuckerburg finished high school, so I don't have to worry about her awkward birthday reminder. However, my dad's Facebook account creeps me out. I can't even imagine what it's like to have your dead parent's Twitter account still out there.
Especially if they're still tweeting from it.
It made me realize that dying in this day and age makes it really strange for the living. I get a little creeped out when I see people retweet Roger Ebert and I accidentally favorite it.
How is this happening????
I still keep my dad's email, which at this point is just an inbox overflowing with junk mail. I still keep old voice mails on my phone that my dad left. I don't know if I'll ever delete my dad's Facebook page or email account. Creepy as it may be, in some way, it does comfort me a little when I miss him. And of course, I'll never forget his birthday now that it pops up alongside all those Candy Crush invites.
You'll Discover Your Parents Had Secrets
As you go through your parent's stuff, you'll begin to piece together information about their past. People your parents knew might get in touch with you and tell you stories about them that you'd never heard. It starts to take on the air of a Law & Order episode after a while. You'll discover funny things, great things, embarrassing things, maybe even really awful terrible things.
As much as you may have felt your parents were always honest with you, I promise there are things, good and bad, that you'll discover after they die. No one prepares you for what you may discover, and my best piece of advice is to try to not get too worked up or angry at your parents if you discover unsettling things about them.
You too, dad?
Nobody is perfect, and being angry at them now is simply a waste of your energy. Focus on the good stuff you got out of your parent's life and let their dirty laundry literally die (pun intended in the best way possible).
You'll Grow Up Instantly
A week after my dad died, I was watching cartoons in my dirty sweatpants while eating raw Pop-Tarts (they're healthier that way) when the following thought came into my head: "HOLY CRAP! I'm like, a real adult now!" I own a house! I have a mortgage! I planned a funeral! I know what interest rates are!
This sums them up pretty well.
I may not even be 30 yet and get carded buying cigarettes, but I'm a grown-up. I have responsibility. I not only have to take care of property -- I have to take care of myself, because I don't have parents to look after me and worry. There's no one nagging me to get my teeth cleaned or to go to the doctor when I'm sick. I don't have parents kicking me in the ass, telling me to stop messing around and get my shit together. I have to kick my own ass. I have no one to whine and complain to. I have to drag my own Pop-Tart ass to the dentist's office using my own free will.
And the blast of energy that only the carbs in a Pop-Tart can provide.
Adulthood is scary. If I could hit the snooze button on adulthood, I would in a heartbeat. But losing your parents, inheriting shit, planning funerals, feeling awkward during Thanksgiving -- all that is just part of life. Life just fucking sucks sometimes. However, it can also be really awesome. The most positive thing I've acquired from my the death of my parents is actually a strong will to live. My parents didn't get to live very long. That they were denied that luxury just makes me want to stick around all that much more. And if there's anything I think my parents really wanted to happen after their death, it's for me to live life and strive to be happy. So as scary as adulthood is, you just gotta ride the wave, hang in there, and eat Pop-Tarts to feed your inner child.
Oh yeah, and you can be Batman, duh!
For more from Eden, follow her on Twitter @Eden_Eats.
For more from Eden, check out 5 Insane and Expensive Things Women Don't (Admit They) Buy and 4 Brainwashing Tactics IKEA Uses From the Cult Handbook.