Sunday, June 18, 2017
A psychologist told me after my Dad died more than 15 years ago that grief never really goes away, if just changes over time. She said we should ignore suggestions to 'get over it'. Each of us processes grief and loss in different ways. Intense internal emotional pain can transform into mild sadness in a few months or a few years or never. Nobody else has the right to force their timeline on any of us.
My grief process, in the case of my Dad's death, is like a roller coaster. I held it together the week he died, from the time in the nursing home when I watched him take his last breath till two minutes after they slid his casket into the designated slot in the mausoleum days later. Then as I rolled my Mother in her wheelchair down a long hall back to the limo, I lost it, sobbing all the way down the hall, my sister on one side and a cousin on the other. That same cousin's fraternal twin brother died this week and my grief over his death combined with this being Father's Day has stirred up a crazy stew of unexpected emotions in me.
The flashback to my Dad's funeral is as clear and colorful as that day. My dark grey suit, white shirt, blue tie; the white marble floor of the mausoleum; the blue sky outside; the tan-colored limo; my Crown Vic rental car. I can picture my Mom, sister and me eating a silent lunch at Mom and Dad's favorite restaurant later, as well as the two-hour exhaustion-filled nap back at my sister's house, the Dad-built house we grew up in, on the sofa our parents picked out years before, two feet from Dad's lounge chair, the kind that lifted him up to help him stand when he still lived there six weeks earlier.
Memories of that whole fall and winter are crowding out every other thought today, Fathers Day. September - terrorist attacks, one of them just fifteen miles from where I lived then; October - both parents move to a nursing home, a sad but necessary option; November - Dad dies. Then comes the family-infused Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
My grief morphed into weeks of regret and self-anger over not spending more time with Dad when I could. Then some time in January, not long before my birthday, my then-wife has the fucking audacity to tell me to 'get over it'.
I visited that cousin two weeks ago. I knew he was on his death bed (death recliner). As I said in previous posts, he had a remarkably positive attitude about his situation and he knew that week or even that day could be his last. I hadn't seen him in a few years and made that trip specifically to see him.
He lasted another two weeks. The text and email I received with news of his death each also mentioned that he appreciated my visit and told that to every family member he encountered. Our last words to each other were "I love you," words we had never spoken to each other till that moment.
I'm silently crying as I write this. Grief and loss slapping me upside the head.
I'll be fine tomorrow. My grief processing process lasts a day or two, during which I mentally and emotionally shut myself off and crawl into a psychological hole. I don't know any other way to do it. I know it can confuse and hurt people closest to me and I'm sorry about that. But it is what it is.
My Dad and I had a sometimes-great, sometimes-difficult relationship but I think about him a lot and credit him with many positives: my problem-solving skills, my determination, my general do-the-right-thing attitude and my smile.
Today, as I mentally sit in my hole and physically sit in my guest room trying to finally straighten it out, I take this break to write this blog post. I wish it was more positive; at least it's deeply honest. My usual positivity should return soon, probably tomorrow.
This year my Father's Day is melancholy but I wish you a happy one.