One month. My dad’s been gone for one very heartbreaking month. I spent this month analyzing the circumstance from every possible angle, replaying the hours from the first text message that something was wrong to holding his hand when he passed. I spent every night crying when the house was still, and the only sounds were the flood of thoughts in my head.
The first question people asked (whether directly or indirectly) was, “What happened?” And honestly, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever know. He wasn’t sick as far as we knew. He didn’t have a fatal condition as far as we knew. His death was ruled of natural causes. At the end of the day, he died. Does it matter what happened? Does one kind of death make us feel less uncomfortable than another? The pain is the same. Even if he had lived to 94, I can assure you that my world would still have been turned inside out and dumped all over the floor.
In this month, I have tried to immerse myself fully in the mourning process. I have allowed myself to grieve in whatever form it wants to take for the day. I’ve appreciated all of the words of support and wisdom coming from my friends, family and yoga teachers – especially from those who had also lost a parent early. Touch in. Be vulnerable. Cry. Laugh. Scream. Be alone. Be with loved ones. It all applies.
We have a tendency to want to fix others’ pain. I am guilty of it too, especially with my boys. I want to kiss their boo boos and put a protective cloak around them. I don’t ever want them to feel pain – physical or emotional. And I realize I’m not letting them have normal human experiences by coddling, shielding or erasing their emotional outbursts as quickly as possible. (Obviously, if they are about to do something dangerous like running into the street, I will save them. And scold them. And threaten to put a leash on them.)
Mourning is about the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever experienced. There’s no timeline for it. There’s no predictable order of events. I don’t know what emotions will pop up or what may trigger unstoppable tears. I’m tapping as much into yoga and Buddhist philosophy as I can to be okay with being uncomfortable because it’s the only place that I can be right now. There’s nothing I can do to fix it, and I don’t know that I’d want it to be fixed. I need it to run its course.
My friend Sheila shared this on Facebook, and it came up on my feed at the right moment as I was reflecting on this past month. I liked this part in particular:
Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.
Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you’re faced with tragedy you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people, you’re surrounded by platitudes.
There was a week in there that I stopped looking at any pictures of my dad. I avoided them because I didn’t want to feel the lump in my throat. I didn’t want to swim in my own deep well of sadness. An online friend shared a metaphor that really resonated with me. I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m quoting her.
The grief is like a room that you spend a lot of time in initially. The room will always be there, and it will feel the same way inside that room forever. But you’ll spend less time in there as the months and years go by, and that’s okay.
I was in that room for a long while, dwelling, visualizing and attaching myself to every memory so I wouldn’t ever lose them. It brought a lot of sadness and anger. Then, I avoided the room. I was emotionally drained and too exhausted to cry anymore. I disengaged.
The metaphorical room changed for me though. My mom, oldest sister and I went to visit the mausoleum today to say hi to my dad. I wasn’t sure how it would go – to be in a physical space that held so many raw emotions as his final resting place. But I’m glad I went. I was happy to visit him. The room of grief may one day go back to simply being a room of memories good, bad and everything in between. I was relieved to have that glimpse of equanimity in this uncomfortable, difficult time in my life.
One month, Dad. Missing you so hard.