Before my Dad died, I wasn’t really comfortable- really didn’t really know how- to talk about death, grief, or the process of grieving. I didn’t really know what loss meant in my life. Through some miraculous luck of life, the first big loss that ever really affected me was when my Grandpa died in 1998. Prior to that, I attended a funeral mass for a great aunt when I was small, but had never been to a wake until Grandpa’s.
Since losing Dad in December, I’ve thought a lot about death, dying, grief. Not in any morbid or depressing day but just as a means of coming to terms with what it all means, how life has changed, how things could be worse. As a family we talk a lot about how, with something so horrible as losing Dad too early, it was sort of the best situation with all the factors being right- he knew enough to call for help, was able to get to the hospital, my mom, brother & I were able to get there to see him and say we loved him, etc. So many people who lose a loved one too early and suddenly don’t get those blessings and spend so much of their grieving process asking why? or if only. I thank God everyday that we know it truly was out of our–and medicine’s hands.
The “stages” of grief are funny ( funny odd, not funny haha) because the way they are written and understood is that you pass from one to the other and at some point, you come to this point of acceptance and calm that it’s over. But it’s not ever over. I watched a HBO documentary of Ethel Kennedy the other night ( highly recommend by the way) and she still can’t talk about/cries when thinking about the night her husband Robert Kennedy was assassinated. That’s almost 50 years ago. Grief is a process, sure– there are days when I don’t cry or get mad at God for taking my Dad too soon, but there are days when I miss him in ways I couldn’t ever imagined missing another human being, days when all I want is to hear his laugh or when I still think ” I’ll have to tell Dad that.” It doesn’t get easier– it gets different. That was my mantra when my life got turned upside down with divorce, and it’s true again now.
Before losing Dad, I personally didn’t like mentioning people’s losses/death of loved ones because I felt uncomfortable AND didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. It’s one of those things in life that people don’t know exactly what to do until they have been through it/are going through it. It’s uncomfortable because it very often involves the most sensitive and vulnerable feelings a human being can have– even if you have a horrible relationship with a loved one who died, there are still raw emotions there, whether they are anger, sadness, or something more ambiguous in the middle. And those emotions- that open sensitivity- is the weird thing that so many people don’t know how to handle. Even when I talk about my Dad with some people, there is often a weird look or something that suggests the uncomfortable nature they have with the idea of death or talking about it- no one wants to think about losing a loved one or worse, their own immortality, but that’s life.
So as far as this “grief” process goes, losing my father will always suck and be heartbreaking. There will never be a day I don’t think of him, talk to him, or mention him in conversation. I have accepted his death, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Coming to terms with the ‘new normal’ and different life is an everyday thing and something that evolves in it’s own way in response to my missing of him too. It’s the work of life to try to figure out what the heck is going on and how to proceed ahead– as I have often said ( and maybe it was my Dad who told me this to begin with): Life happens- adjust accordingly.