When my dad first died, I thought that grief was temporary. Just something you feel for a bit and then get over. A period of mourning.
I’ve come to realize that grief is just a new normal. You get to the point where most days go by in this new normal – a place where you can reflect without sobbing, a place where you appreciate what you’ve learned through your loss, a place where the person is always missed but you’re no longer walking around with a bunch of exposed nerves. Most days are like this. It is always a part of you, it’s just not as big of a load to carry. Grief becomes a part of your life.
When I look back on my life, most of the time it’s as if I’m reflecting on someone else’s life. There’s my childhood self; selfish, naive, silly, dramatic… completely unaware that there’s this huge cliff coming. Then there’s my 13-21 year old self; depressed, anxious, angry, paranoid… but mostly numb. Then there’s present day me; actually living my life instead of wishing I were elsewhere. Able to accept what has happened and not let it dictate the quality of my life. Most of the time, the past versions of myself are so far away that it feels like it never happened. That I just watched a sad and inspiring movie.
Then sometimes, it hits you. Instead of the past being cloudy, it clears up and you realize that your memory is full of things you actually experienced… not just things you heard about. You hurt, you get angry, you lose all the progress you’ve made in the past few years. You no longer forgive yourself, you can no longer think of the person without tearing up, you can no longer see it as a lesson to be learned. You’d give every single thing you gained after the loss to get that person back.
That’s where I’ve been for the past two days. Luckily, I have enough self-awareness to know that it’s temporary… fleeting. That tomorrow will be better.
What triggered it? The cold weather. While fall is my favorite season for so many reasons, it brings so much heartache for my family. It used to be a time of celebration – mine, my sister’s and my father’s birthday, my parents’ anniversary, Halloween (it used to be huge in my family). Now, all those things are bittersweet. Additionally, my dad died in the fall. It’s like we were told that we could get a pass all year if we just agree to compact everything sad into three weeks.
I was walking to work yesterday when I felt my first fall breeze. Just like that, my eyes began to water. That’s grief for ya. You don’t even know why you’re upset, it just happens. And you can’t prevent it.
Today I’m sad that I never got to know my dad. That my adult self will never have a conversation with him. When I was thirteen, I didn’t understand him. I was selfish and immature… I was often annoyed by him. If only I knew how similar we would turn out to be. I think that we’d be incredible friends as adults. I think our conversations would be endless. I would trade anything for just one.
That’s the eternal question. The one that has come up in any conversation with others who have lost parents. The pandora’s box. If you were given the opportunity to see your loved one for five more minutes, would you do it?
There are two common answers:
1. No. I wouldn’t be able to handle saying goodbye to him again. I would lose all of the progress I made.
I’m a yes. I would love to have one conversation with him and let him know how sorry I am for how bratty I was. I would love to fill him in on my life… let him know that there’s some incredible people taking care of me… that everyone is okay. I would love to just stare at him… laugh at how I became so much like him without him there to influence me. I would even like to just stare in his eyes again and make him laugh just one more fucking time.
But it’s obviously not possible. Can’t happen. I have to remember that. It hurts like hell, but I have to let it go. Because when I don’t, I grow insanely jealous of anyone who had the opportunity to know him as an adult. I hate people who have father figures. I long for something I’ll ever have again. That’s just not healthy.
So, whaddup, grief? You’re an asshole.