Dear Carolyn: A good friend throws a big Super Bowl party every year. It's his favorite thing, and we always go. My mom died over the holidays. Our host knows this, but very few others who will be there will know.
I'd be tempted to blow off the party . . . but. It's tradition. It means a lot to our friend. My husband would like to see these friends and might stay home if I choose not to go. I'm going to have to figure out how to interact with people again someday, so I figure if I'm not dealing well, we can leave at halftime.
I find myself dreading the casual question, "How are you?" I'm not the most socially skilled at the best of times. I'm looking for a response that's honest but doesn't bring the conversation to an awkward stop. I guess I'm hoping to hear that it's okay if I screw up or start crying because of a song in a commercial, and whatever people decide about me is not my problem. Plus, there's always the possibility it'll all be fine, right?
Grieving: I’m so sorry about your mom.
Crying is okay, even at weird times and when no one knows why you’re crying. The person who cares most about the way you carry yourself is you; your close friends will care about your grief but less about its leaking out; random partygoers will care to the extent that a person in their midst is sad, but once you step away to regroup, they will go back to yelling at a box on the wall because the person wearing the shirt they chose to care about just caught or didn’t catch a ball.
It’s all good. Really. Go and be among people and, sure, leave if you’re struggling.
After my dad passed away, I had some strategic answers in my back pocket. If they said, "Sorry about your dad," I'd thank them and ask how they were doing. If they knew what happened and asked how I've been, I'd tell them it's been tough, but I'm glad to see them, how are they doing? People who didn't know my news would get an "I'm doing fine, how are you, gee can you believe this weather?" response. And if anyone's prying, say you appreciate their concern, but talking about your mom is tough and you'd really rather enjoy the party.
I lost my mom six years ago. I think there's another question under yours: "How dare I go out and have a good time when I'm supposed to be sad all the time?" You are allowed. You are allowed, you are allowed, you are allowed. Living your life, enjoying your friends, participating in a much-loved tradition, and getting out of your own head for a few hours is a necessity for your own survival. You may do this without feeling guilty about it.
I'm a 50-year-old man who cried in front of my co-workers when my mom's DOG died. Virtually nobody will judge you for being sad about your mom. And anyone who does is so amazingly awful a person that their opinion isn't worth anything, anyway.
Thanks everyone, you’re the best.