This post has been swirling around my head for a while and honestly? I’m not sure whether I will post it or keep it up for long but if your blog isn’t a place to empty thoughts and feelings, then where is?
Grief is a funny thing. When I was young, I thought grief was crying over gravesides; a dramatic, overpowering sadness at losing someone that fades and then disappears. I’ve discovered that grief is not linear, going from huge to small in one neat line over a period of time, like I thought. Instead it undulates and twists, going quiet for months, sometimes years and then the most unexpected thing can bring it back, fresh and new as the day you first felt it. But grief is a private members club. Until you experience it yourself, you don’t quite get it.
I became a member when I got a phonecall to say my dad had died, unexpectedly, as he went into work. I had sat my last exam of my first year of university that morning and none of us knew until my mum came home from work to a policeman. Then followed a hideous blur of trying to get back to halls from town, explain to harry what had happened without being able to say the words and then trying to get myself 300 miles back home to see my mum and my sister and to say goodbye to my dad.
I don’t remember the fresh grief very well if I’m honest, that graveside grief that you see on tv shows. My mind has numbed that raw shock. I spent the weeks before the funeral drawing and handwriting all the programmes for his funeral to distract myself and then somehow we had to all live on in this new world. Somehow a year passed and I don’t remember much at all of how I felt or what I did, or how I behaved. Life went on, I had birthdays, sat exams, moved houses, all without dad around and with my mum and sister in their own worlds of loss. We did cry at his graveside, but the grief has been so much more than that.
It was only after a year or so that I started being really aware of that quieter grief that carries on and sits gently in wait. What I realised is that I was not and am not sad all the time. I do not spend all my days feeling the loss and feeling sad. But the sadness is still there, biding its time, waiting for the oddest moments to hit.
I didn’t cry on my wedding day without my dad. I didn’t cry when I graduated (twice) and he wasn’t there. I don’t always cry on the anniversary of his death and I don’t get sad at Christmas- I mainly think about all the food! Father’s day isn’t the worst. All of the expected ‘difficult days’ usually aren’t that bad for me.
But there are moments where it comes back and hits me so hard it is like being winded. Like the first time I had to drive a different route across country and realised I couldn’t ask my dad and his inner a-z for the best way. Like when I ran out of diesel late at night after working on a set and couldn’t remember how to bleed the injectors to get the car going- I sobbed like a little girl because he had shown me how to do it and I couldn’t call him to remember. Sometimes I get a jolt of shock when someone walks down a busy street wearing the same shirt as dad always wore. I often find the perfect present for him in a shop by accident and feel that perfect happiness before it hits that there is no point in buying it. The most unexpected moments can bring a wave of anguish.
This year, on the anniversary of dad’s death, I cried more than I have in years. It wasn’t the day itself. It was that I had to calculate how many years it had been since he died and the fact it has been 7 years hit me hard. It dawned on me that at 27 now, almost all of my adult life has been lived without him. Without him really knowing me and without me getting to know him. It was the realisation that I will live so much more of my life without him than I ever did with him. The realisation that I can already barely count the years, remember his voice or picture his face clearly, when I have decades of unlived life still ahead. I cried and cried, then I went to work and carried on living, with the grief settling quietly in again as I laughed and smiled with friends.
I’m aware now that this strange grief will always be around. I may be 90 and still see something that brings tears into my eyes and an ache in my heart. I know that other losses will add to this over the years, that I will go through that pain and sadness all over again, and it is terrifying. But I also know that it will ebb and flow and I will live alongside it. It doesn’t stop joy or fun or excitement or all the other good things that you feel as you live. I just miss my dad and sometimes I wish it was all as simple as I thought it was when I was younger.