Losing My Father – Do I Miss Him Enough?
This post is part of a mini-series about losing my Dad to cancer earlier this year. I’ve briefly explained why I’m writing it here.
I’ve reached a kind of grief that I’d never contemplated even existed. When I found out that Dad was going to die, I knew there’d be anger, frustration, grief, crying, sorrow and all the other obvious things. What I didn’t think about was that any of that would or could ever go away.
Perhaps I didn’t think it was possible that losing him, particularly in this way and at this age, was something I could ever deal with and that I would be affected by it every day. Maybe the notion that I would ever “get over it” was so abhorrent and cold that even considering it was too awful.
And yet now, 194 days later I feel unsettlingly numb. It’s not denial – I know he’s gone and he isn’t coming back. I know that I miss him and I know that I wish things were different. I wish he could see his grandchildren growing up, watch them learning to swim, to play rugby, to dance. I wish he could still read them stories and watch them learn to read and write. What I think has not changed, but my emotional reaction to it has, and it’s uncomfortable. It feels unnatural.
Being angry, fighting the reality of it, crying and hurting all made sense. Feeling like this does not. It makes me wonder how I can be this way. It makes me think that I don’t miss him enough – that something must be wrong with me if that intensity of feeling has dissipated after such a short amount of time. Shouldn’t my world have collapsed around me? Shouldn’t I be inconsolable, unable to function, a mess? Shouldn’t I be a fundamentally different person?
Don’t get me wrong, I know the answers, but the confusion, the questioning, and the self-doubt are far harder to understand and accept than the extremes of emotion.
The hardest thing is the feeling of distance. For a time after Dad’s death, it was as though he was just out of reach. Painfully, frustratingly close but not here. At the moment, however, he feels further away than I ever imagined was possible. He feels like ancient history. Like all those other people in photos who aren’t alive anymore. And frankly, he deserves better than that.
It used to be, that the fact he was dead was so utterly alien that I’d forget it had happened at all. I’d go to call him, remind myself to tell him something or think about an event in the future that would involve him, and his death would come flooding back, like a punch to the gut.
Now sometimes, I feel like I’ve forgotten he was ever here. As though everything is so “normal” that there’s no way such a traumatic thing can have happened, because if it had, surely I’d feel it every second of every day.
Feeling this way is a kind of hurt I’ve never experienced before. It hurts that it doesn’t hurt. I long for the longing to come back. For the sting of grief, which sounds slightly absurd.
In reality, I know full well that I do I miss him and losing him has had a profound, fluctuating effect on me and everyone else around him. In my clearer moments, it occurs to me is that it’s easy to lose perspective – to think that him not being on my mind all the time is new, when in fact it’s the opposite. It wasn’t until he was diagnosed that thinking about him took over almost every waking minute, so is it really so surprising that after a time, things would return to some kind of “normal”? Probably not.
Oddly enough, I can imagine having this conversation with him and I think I know what he’d say, and perhaps it’s his practical approach to life that’s worn off on me. He’d probably turn my question on its head and ask, would I feel better if I was upset all the time? Would it change things if I spent all day every day thinking about him?
He’d still be gone and I’d still be sad about it, but what would all-encompassing grief achieve six months on? And of course, he’d be right, and I’d grudgingly agree with him, and ask him why he always has to be so level-headed.
And ultimately, that’s the really important thing. In so many ways he isn’t gone. He lives on in me, in my brother, my mother, our family and in the lives of other people he knew along the way. And honestly, I’m not sure there’s a better way to remember him than that.