Today marks the one year anniversary of my Dad's death and in light of that, I thought it was time to write down some of the things I have learned about loss and grief on this long/short/strange journey. None of these are profound, some are even funny but for me at least, it was helpful to write them out for my own good and hopefully for the good of someone who will read this. So, here are my observations.
Grief is weird, or at least it is different than I expected it to be. It's effects hit at times I least expect them. Tears are one good example of this. During my dad’s visitation and funeral I expected to be weeping but the tears hardly came. I was sad, deeply sad, but only a few tears came that day. Tears came later at random moments: on the drive home, walking through the grocery store, waiting to check out at the lunch counter, etc. Even months later, sitting on a plane listening to the announcement of a serviceman who was being transported via our flight to his final resting place, I found myself welling up with tears. Dad’s military experience was so important to him that the mere vision of this gentleman’s accompanying officer was enough to send me into a tailspin with the people seated beside me likely just thinking I was some great American.
Grief is different for spouses than it is for children. This seems an obvious one but I hadn’t considered the ways in which my Mom losing her husband is vastly different than me losing my Dad. She lost a daily presence in the home, a partner in life, a person whose whereabouts and needs she had considered for 42 years. I lost a guide, a Mr. Fix-it, a master directions to anywhere. both relationships great, both relationships different, both losses deep but hers was hers and mine was mine and we needed different grieving paths.
You forget. I think this was aided by the fact that I no longer lived in the same house as my dad but literally for months, even up to this one year anniversary, I have had legitimate moments where it was as if I could still call or see dad. From my kitchen window you can see cars approaching our street. One day while washing dishes I saw a black Chevy Colorado with an extended cab drive by; this truck was identical to dad’s. I turned to Kari and said, “Hey Dad’s about to drive up…..never mind, no he’s not”. I literally saw the car and for a moment thought he was coming to see us. I have actually picked up the phone to call and tell or ask him something only to realize the number is disconnected, he’s gone, and it hits fresh in those moments.
I think about my dad every day. I see things that remind me of him. I talk about him in conversations. I think about him every time I get in the car on the way home and can’t call to de-brief the day with him. I think about him much more now than I did when he was alive and that is a bit saddening. I think it is also important for others to remember that grieving people are thinking of their loved one constantly. Before my dad died, I would approach others who had lost a loved one with the mentality that I needed to talk about anything BUT the person they were grieving. I didn’t want to bring up emotions that were painful or memories they were trying to keep in the background. Those were all bad assumptions. Talk about them, consider asking to hear stories about them and when they mention someone they have lost, listen and enjoy the story. It’s not weird, its healing.
I am drawn to the things he loved and find difficulty accepting the things he did not. This is the funny one. A good example is Chevy vs. Ford. My dad taught me that FORD stood for two things Fix Or Repair Daily and Found On Road Dead. He and I had some good conversations on this subject and he brought me around to the same conclusion. However, now that he is gone, the thought of buying a Ford is not just a bad decision, it is "an abominable action that would mar my Father’s good reputation!" It has moved from an opinion to passion! I think this is a temporary one, but there does seem to be a palpable affection for things your loved one loved even if you really were never passionate about those things before.
Our grief is temporary and hopeful. The greatest realization I have had is a reminder that our grief is temporary. Dad passed away the day before Easter and the anniversary will likely fall near Easter each year. I consider this a gracious reminder from the Father of the greatest event in human history of Christ paying the price I deserved to pay in His death on the cross and rising from the dead to defeat death. This is a sweet reminder that death has been defeated and no longer holds any claim on us. Grief is for a time but hope comes in the morning and more than ever I look forward to the morning!