When I received the news of my father’s passing, it felt like the earth had done a flip on its side. I couldn’t make immediate sense of what had transpired- in retrospect this slight delay to comprehend was a defense mechanism -when I did my body began to shut down. I could feel every cell going into survival mode to conserve energy and I soon became a zombie, unable to sleep, eat, or think clearly. The only thing I did quite effectively was cry. I wanted to be alone most times except when something needed to be done, and then I felt the need for the presence of another who could function better as I had let my own faculties, for the most part, go on leave.
I grew reluctant to answer any more calls unsure of which ones would serve against me, as my guesses proved, time and again, to be wrong. I came to find that ‘some’ people can be weird and sometimes offensive towards the griever. It made me wonder why they even bothered at all. During this time, it became clear to me quite quickly those who were no good, and I must say the revelation coupled with my grief was stifling. Disappointing messages from a few who I had termed a part of my ‘inner circle’ poured in with excuses “I’m tired right now, but sorry for your loss, call me if you want to talk.”
“I heard the news, but I’m busy, I’ll call when I can” radio silence.
It was as though they had heard I had a stomach ache or had stubbed my toe. Unfeeling. Cold. Then there were those who reached out seemingly to rile me up and upset me further. I was in no position to cater to the confusing emotions of others. I felt like an injured animal sprawled on unforgiving streets, waiting for the vehicle that would bring me to my fate.
Even more surprising to me were the reactions I got from ‘some’ people I hadn’t had frequent contact with, or who were not necessarily as close to me. Their support, love, and readiness to be present threw me off balance completely. It certainly was not a time to make comparisons, but when a bright red light is flashing at you in the darkness it’s impossible to ignore. The suffocating feeling started to wane a bit when I made the instant decision to let go of those who proved to be, quite frankly, useless. I began sifting through the clutter, or maybe this was some sort of distraction from the dark cloud that pressed in around me so that I could see nothing but grief. I came to despise the words “You have to be strong” from well-meaning people. How on earth was I to do that?
I did however manage to find a sliver of peace when people told me funny stories of dad. Those were the conversations I enjoyed and entertained. They certainly made me laugh, something I never thought could be possible in the midst of all the turbulent emotions.
It hit like a punch in the gut when people said words along the lines of “It has happened, you have to move on,” did these people not realize that I was entitled to my grief? That they did not have the right to tell me how to grieve, or when to ‘move on’ as they put it. People don’t seem to understand that when you lose a parent your life doesn’t simply bounce back to how it was prior to the loss. Something changes, however little, something changes.
The experience of grief is of course different for each individual because different people experience grief differently. Regardless, if you speak to a griever, they will tell you that it changed their life. It could be that it changed their mindset, or made them more aware of their mortality. For me amongst other things it was that I no longer wanted to do anything just for the sake of doing it, or because it was expected of me by society or some other self-imposing body or individual. This realization in itself changed my life overnight, from the work I was currently engaged in to even tweaking my long-term goals and reshuffling a few plans here and there. My pressing need to only want to do things that would bring me peace and fuel joy heightened.
I became completely intolerant to accommodating behaviors that made me uncomfortable and I voiced my views more readily- something I had often been cautioned against because “What would people think of you?” I no longer could be bothered to care. Life is too short to please people at the expense of your self-respect, or to be miserable because you are trying to adhere to societal expectations and rules, or to not add value in however little of a way you can. When you lose a parent, life as you know it changes.