I’ve spent the last 8 months trying to understand grief, trying to understand and wrap my head around what death is, and trying to move on. Trying to understand the hush hush world of the “G” word that people avoid. My father died very unexpectedly, on the night before my parents were to hop on a plane to start a new life in China. I had been on very bad terms with my dad for a couple months prior to his passing, and we were frequently arguing and not treating eachother as we shouldve been. I was angry. I will never admit to what was said during our last conversation, but I will always carry the guilt and regret of my poor choice of words on that day. My father struggled with a lot of problems and he had for years, starting from his childhood. I watched him struggle all my life and because of that I would frequently look at my dad and make him promise me he will be around to see my firstborn, or my marriage, or even just to see me grow into a responsible adult he could be proud of. There was always a gnawing feeling that he wouldnt be around for too long, and I was unfortunately correct. The moment at the hospital when the nurses informed us it was time to “give up”, I didn’t think I was living in reality anymore. It was more some sort of terrible misunderstanding. They must be wrong, because that’s my dad, as if that was plenty enough explanation. This man that you just pronounced dead is my father, don’t you dare tell me that he’s gone. I collapsed then and the nurses had to carry me to another bed and get me on oxygen support. I still didn’t believe it. My brothers were called and informed, they wanted to talk to me right away, they wanted to make sure I stayed safe and away from anything that could harm me, because they knew I would try to find some escape. They told me to go back to uni and get what I promised my dad just a few days before, a teaching certificate. I had promised him I would go through with the course, and he had in return told me how proud he was. I shrugged it off. That was the last time I heard my father say “I’m so proud of what you’re doing”, and I didn’t even really listen. I didn’t believe that my parents could be proud of me after disappointing them for so long.
It’s been 8 months now. A lot has happened and at the same time, time feels like it’s been on standstill. That’s what my grieving process has been like. I spent a great amount of time in denial. I pushed it far, far away into the deepest part of my mind and only allowed the memories, the thoughts, the emotions to come out in the night. Actually, it’s still like that. I think if I were to be honest, I might not still truly believe that he’s gone. I just cant seem to wrap my head around it. How could my dad be here in the morning and suddenly be gone that same day?
More and more as time goes on I find myself recognizing these “stages of grief” that the psychologists talk about. The denial, the guilt, the anger, and apparently at the end of this long road is supposed to be “acceptance”. I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely feeling the other things. The denial so clearly still lingering, the guilt punishing me every sleepless night, and the most suprising of all, anger. Anger at myself for not being the daughter I wanted to be. Anger at my friends for not understanding where I am mentally – though I’m learning more and more that I can’t expect complete understanding from people until they go through a significant loss themselves. I’m learning that there is no blame there, that it’s just physically impossible to understand until it happens to you. And the hardest emotion of all, anger at my dad for leaving. For breaking his promises. For not being here with me. How could I be angry at my dead father for…dying? But I am. I feel sick everytime the anger rears it’s head, but it’s there, and it’s strong. And I desperately want to let go of such a toxic emotion. The advice you hear so often when you lose a loved one is unfortunately one that just doesn’t help. “Time will heal all wounds”. That’s incorrect. Time does not heal, it simply numbs, pushes memories away. Something in life you have to accept? You will feel that pain for the rest of your life. You simply find ways to distract yourself from the pain, the reminders, but if you let yourself stop and think even for a second, that pain is as alive as ever.
Through times like these, you really find out who really cares about you and who just doesn’t have the patience to deal with grief. At my age, at 21, people don’t want to talk or think about dying. They dont like seeing someone go through loss because that’s not what youth is about. I understand that. But here’s some advice to people who has a friend whose lost a parent: Patience is the kindest gift you can give. Don’t expect them to be chatty, to want to catch you up on their life. It’s not that I dont want to talk to people anymore, it’s just hard to talk about my life when I’m simply not happy with my life. I dont want to tell people how I’m doing and how his death has paralyzed me and put my life in full stop. If you care about your mourning friend, don’t get so frustrated so fast. Maybe a few months seems long to you, but that amount of time is nothing at all to someone whose lost someone so significant in their life. I still feel like I lost my dad yesterday. 8 months hasn’t changed that.
Also, “call me/message me whenever you need something” is a hard thing to hear too. All of these things are said with good intention, but theres no way I’m going to be calling people up when I’m at my worst. The thing I’ve learned has helped is people forcefully pulling me out, getting me to eat, letting me talk about what happened instead of skirting around it all the time. It might be uncomfortable but talking about loss and grief is so much healthier than avoiding it and keeping it bottled up.
What I’m saying is, if you’ve lost someone, take all the god damn time you need to cry, to mourn, to grieve. Dont feel pressured that you SHOULD be healed after a certain amount of time, because that’s a lie. You don’t have to be anything. Don’t fake it to keep your friends and social life, be honest and open about it and if you lose friends along the way for it, just understand that they aren’t in a place in life where they can face and understand what you’re going through right now, but they will someday. Try to be forgiving, but don’t hold on too hard if they pull away or else you’ll end up even more hurt.
If you know someone whose going through significant grief, give them time. Give them your love and show it to them by bringing them food, or taking them out for coffee. They might not want to go out, but it’s doing a whole lot of good to do so. Occasional “I hope you’re doing well” or “How are you” messages don’t work too well.
I believe in being open about my process of grieving. I believe that in order for me to heal, I need to talk about it. I’m not spilling my emotions out in seek of some sort of pity because that’s the last thing I want to see on people’s faces when they see me or read my things. I’m doing it for myself. I got my love of writing from my dad, and he always encouraged me to write, write, write. He gave me a special gift, a way to escape, a way to let out so many emotions that can’t be expressed out loud, and I’m going to use it well.
Time may not heal your pain, but life has suprising ways of creating new happiness to fill your days. The pain may remain, but life is still beautiful and giving, and you will fill your void with new things that come your way. Just be patient.