Today is my parents 25th wedding anniversary. Next Monday is Dad's birthday. He would have turned 53, but he died 263 days ago.
The West has a weird relationship with grief. We think that people should "move on" and "let it go," even when it may not be the healthiest way to deal with grief. We want to shove it under the rug because Grief is the elephant in the room that no-one (except the griever) wants to acknowledge. Grief makes us uncomfortable so we choose to pretend it isn't there.
Example: We choose to use phrases like "passed on" and "entered into rest" and "gone" because we're so uncomfortable talking about death. We shirk the subject of grief by placating the griever and avoiding the word "died." Fact: my dad died. Use whatever phrase you want, but he died and that's a fact. No difference in wording is going to change that and it doesn't make me feel any better.
We want to assume that the griever is okay because truthfully, we don't want to talk about it. I know, because I was just as uncomfortable about it before last December.
I'm writing this blog post for all the world to see (i.e., opening my heart and spilling it's contents everywhere) because I want to feel like I can talk about my Dad without a pitying look and a quick change of subject from the person I'm talking to. I don't need you to empathize with me. I don't need you to feel sorry for me. I just need you to listen to me and love me.
“If you know someone who has lost anybody who’s important to them, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn’t forget they died. You’re not reminding them. What you’re reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that’s a great, great gift.”
I'm not lying when I say that I have thought about my dad every single day for the past 263 days.
Sometimes it's a passing thought: "Shit. My computer isn't cooperating. Dad would have known what to do."
Sometimes it's a flashback. I'll see an ambulance go down the street or I'll hear someone start coughing next to me on the bus or I'll see someone die in a movie and I'm right back in our living room watching Dad's lips turn blue.
Sometimes I'm pissed off because the world is so goddamn unfair. What did we do to deserve this? Are 19-year-olds supposed to give CPR to their dads? Is the first funeral a 13-year-old goes to supposed to be his dad's?
Sometimes I feel guilty because I shouldn't have fought with him so much. And I hate that if what had happened hadn't happened, nothing would have changed. I'd probably be fighting with him about Trump on this very day.
Sometimes, like today, I simply wish he were here. I'd like to pretend that if he were, we'd all be together celebrating, but the truth is that we probably wouldn't be. Mum and Dad's 25th wedding anniversary would have passed in the same way as their 24th: largely unremarked on with the exception of a happy anniversary text from Connor and I (and only because we saw it on Facebook). We might have remembered to get them something silver.
There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about my dad and for others to pretend like it hasn't happened or assume that I've "moved on" is hurtful and isolating.
“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite”
Just love me and listen to me. Deal with your own misconceptions about grief and fears about death. Because that's really what it boils down to: the west is scared of death. And when we're scared, we just don't want to talk about it. Which leaves grievers all alone.
100% of us will lose a loved one at some point in our lives. Isn't it time we started the conversation and stopped the stigma surrounding grief?
If you have some time to spare, read this great article that gives some information about myths v. facts when it comes to grief. I'd really appreciate it.
Images by Ashley Crawford Photography.