As the first anniversary of my father’s death approaches (he died on January 5, 2015), I find myself increasingly melancholy.
I’m no longer in shock, as I was for the first few weeks after he was gone. I recently read through my journal from those weeks, and I wondered how I managed to function. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. I burst into tears at the oddest moments. And yet I talked rationally with the funeral home, the accountant, and the lawyer. I collected the right documents to bring back home with me. I worked my way through the bank policies that kept me from getting access to my parents’ money for almost a month. I coped.
Why is my feeling of bereavement increasing now instead of dissipating?
Is it because I closed on the sale of his home in mid-December? But it is such a relief not to have the responsibility of caring for a house two thousand miles away. Still, I found myself mourning the loss of a place to call home, even though I haven’t lived with my parents for over forty years. Although I had some very nice visits with them in this house, it was also the place where I watched my mother’s decline into dementia and where I saw my father grieve her passing.
Is it missing him over the holidays? But I rarely spent much time with my parents over Thanksgiving or Christmas. Still, this year I found myself missing the stack of $25 Nordstrom gift cards that my father gave me the last couple of Christmases. (He used his credit card rewards points, and couldn’t get higher denominations. I was always a little embarrassed to pull out a pile of gift cards, but the Nordstrom sales clerks took it in stride.)
Is it that I now find myself without anyone supporting me in the practice of my religion? But I should practice my faith for myself and not for others. Still, I remember making a deliberate choice to continue my Catholicism past adolescence to honor my parents and fulfill their expectations. Now, is there any point when no one else in my family cares?
Is it that I am now the only one who remembers any of what happened in my first decade of life? But I treasure those memories—I had a reasonably happy childhood. Still, my parents are gone, the brother who shared many of those years with me is estranged, and I have few friends left from my childhood and no relatives with whom I was close. My loneliness is palpable when I think of those years.
It is probably all of these things, and more besides. I have read that there is no timeline for grief. I am finding that to be true. Now that the sudden shock of loss is past, it is the little things that stop me.
I used to call my father when I got home from Mass on Saturday afternoon. Now I have no one to call. My father used to know to the minute when I should get home after a flight. If I didn’t call him within thirty minutes of that time, he would call me. Now I have no one with whom to touch base.
On holidays, we would talk, even if we were not together. This year, I called my brother and sister on Christmas, and we had a nice chat. But there was still a hole. I had to wedge going to Mass on Christmas into the non-Catholic holiday celebrations, as if it were something odd for me to do, rather than being the central point of Christmas.
I debate whether to cancel his email account, which I check about once a week. All that is coming in is spam. I know I should delete his phone numbers off my cell phone, but I can’t yet.
In all of these little things, I feel alone. I know they will get easier as time goes by. I know also that I will be stopped cold by grief by new things. It is all part of the story.
When has grief stopped you? What made it easier to bear?