First day of summer and I’m feeling introspective because of recent events.
I’ve experienced grief before. One of my earliest memories is from first grade when my paternal grandfather passed away. I knew he was gone, but I didn’t entirely comprehend what death was.
I did, however, understand that something was wrong as I lurked around the edges, listening to adults speaking in hushed tones. And after I watched those same adults leave to attend the funeral, I retreated to my room and squeezed into the space between my bed and dresser because I wanted to make myself as small as possible. I felt the confusion and emptiness of grief, even if I didn’t know what it was at that time.
Since then, I’ve lost another grandfather and dear cousins and relatives of my husband’s that felt like my own. I’ve cried, I’ve felt angry, I’ve played the what-if game.
But nothing prepared me for losing my father a little over two weeks ago.
I won’t go into detail about his illness, other than to say he’d been sick off and on for over a decade and he’d fought like hell through every down and tried to make the most of every up.
My dad’s death was both expected, but not. If you’ve ever watched someone you love suffer for years, you know what I mean. You’re scared all the time of it happening, but when it finally does, you can’t believe it.
It was late evening when my mom called from the hospital to tell me. I went into this sort of action-mode. I called my brothers and my dad’s younger sister. I left my best friend a message to call me when she got a chance because I didn’t want to interrupt bedtime with her kids. I unloaded the dishwasher while I waited for her to call back. It struck me that doing something mundane seemed completely ridiculous, but I needed to do something.
Everything I did the next few days felt surreal. I went to the grocery store and wondered why the cashier was chatting away like everything was normal. Didn’t he know? Didn’t everyone know? Something so big had just happened to me and my family, yet life had continued on around us without so much as a pause.
Although, in a weird way, it was oddly comforting to know that all these people had likely experienced their own grief, yet here they were, buying bread and light bulbs.
The funeral was the hardest day of my life and after I was home, on the couch with my husband and cats, my brain finally allowed me to feel sadness.
Up until that point, I’d focused on planning and details. I’d hugged a million people and thanked them for their support and said that cliché line about how I was glad he was no longer in pain, which I actually believe, but it still felt so robotic.
I truly did feel grateful for the kindness of everyone, from distant relatives I’d never even met to the veterans at the cemetery who volunteered their time to give my dad a military tribute, but I’d never felt so tired in my life.
So now I focus on the “new normal” which is a term I discovered on many grief sites. I don’t know what that is yet.