My morning started off well enough. I got up, got ready, and went to work. The ride to the train station was smooth, and once on the train, I turned my attention to the book I was reading, which was about to reach its conclusion. I was sad to finish it, as the period of time it brought me to was so compelling, so intensely interesting, that I didn’t want to leave. I lost my sense of self, and I think that’s when you know that a book is really excellent. I wasn’t aware of the crowded passengers around me, wasn’t aware of the stops, and I wasn’t aware of any welcome or (usually) unwelcome odors. I was entranced, mesmerized by the words on the page.
I stepped off the train without a care in the world, ready to make my way to a coffee shop before heading to work, and that’s when I checked my phone. A text message from my stepmother read, “Thinking of you and your Dad today. Do you want to get together for dinner tonight?”
I stopped dead.
It was November 14th. It’s been six years since my father passed, and until that message appeared on my phone, I hadn’t thought about it. I was so busy focusing on my morning routine, that I didn’t even realize what day it was, what day it truly was. I wondered if I would have noticed had someone not reminded me. Suddenly, my roommate offering to make me anything I wanted for dinner made a lot more sense.
I spent the better part of the day in a haze. Part of me wanted to pull out of it, to just be my normal and (relatively) carefree self. I’m usually energetic at work, quick with a joke or a pun, and I’m almost always in a good mood. Upon my realization, I felt sad, and I wanted to retreat into myself, to just go home and shut everyone out for the rest of the day. I felt out of it, although part of that was attributable to the fact that I got an hour or two of sleep. My occasional insomnia is starting to worry me, but that’s another post for another time.
Part of me wondered how long this will last. After all, it’s been six years since my father passed, or one senate term, whichever you prefer. In six years, I’ve lived in several places, had two jobs, gotten my master’s degree, and made many friends. I’ve even entered the next decade of my life, much to my chagrin. Still, this feeling persists. It’s not as painful as it once was, but it still affects me when those days come around. His birthday isn’t too tough to get through, it’s actually father’s day that gets me. I find myself avoiding social media at all costs on that day. I’m happy for everyone who gets to celebrate with their dads, but I’m sad that my last Father’s Day was in 2011.
My assertion is this: despite the fact that we get older, those losses and the pain that accompany them never really leave us. The immediate pain subsides, our tears run dry, and we can look at pictures of our loved ones without becoming upset, but I’ll probably think about my dad on every November 14th for the rest of my life. I hope it doesn’t make me sad the way it has the last six years, but I also can’t say with any certainty that it won’t. These losses stick with me, with all of us; long after our loved one is gone.
Some still haven’t experienced that first significant loss in life. To be sure, I don’t wish that on anyone. I don’t want you to experience that pain, but I also think it’s difficult to empathize with others when you yourself haven’t dealt with something like that, and that gap of understanding can strain a relationship. Maybe friends ask you to stop talking about the loss or event at some point, having heard all they can stomach. They know they can’t understand what you feel, and they get tired of hearing about it. They want you to move on, as if it was ever that easy. Yet for so many of us, these things never really end. Our lives are altered, and they’ll never be the same no matter how much we’d like to go back to the way things were.
We’d love to stop talking about the damage, but it’s how we release and process the bad thoughts that come to us and hold us back, keep us from moving on. It’s not all bad though, despite the tone of this post. Losing someone you love can have a silver lining, if you’re willing to let yourself see it.
These losses become part of the fabric of who we are: that’s just the nature of loss. Our life paths become altered, we take a detour, and the people we would have been get left behind, but that’s doesn’t mean we’re worse. So many of us become more compassionate as a result. Our lives are irrevocably changed, we become people with scars, but some of us change in a positive way. Many of us are inspired, and end up choosing a profession where we help humanity in some way. That very same disease that claimed our loved one is now the cause we support most avidly.
I’ll never be the person I was before my father passed. There’s no way I could be. I knew I was going to change before it happened, and yet I tried to hang on to that person as long as I could. I liked who I was, and the prospect of becoming a different person was frightening. Maybe I just knew I was about to go through hell, and I wasn’t ready for that. No one ever is. No one is ready to lose a person they love, yet the most important part is how you handle it and live your life after it’s over.
I hate that I’m affected as much as I am by these days, but I love who I’m becoming. I love that I’m able to empathize with people in a variety of situations. I love that I care. I didn’t used to care, I can tell you that. These losses and the pain aren’t all bad; it’s just that sometimes it can take a little longer to see the light. The pain and the memories become ingrained in our minds, our bodies, our souls, and we are forever different. How we choose to respond is largely up to us. Thanks for reading.