I had never lost anyone close to me before I lost my father this summer. All four of my grandparents are gone, but those losses, while difficult, made sense – seemingly part of the journey of life. This journey has not had such a clear path to follow.
My dad was not a religious man and asked for a service by the water – his water – and of course we honored that wish. Part of honoring that, however, meant my brother, sister and I planning and carrying out the service and the “after party.” We worked non-stop to put it all together in one short week – talking to caterers, renting a tent and chairs, making programs, putting together music and a slideshow. We each wrote and shared our thoughts, memories, and love to honor him that day. Friends and family gathered to remember him and honor him. We ate, drank, laughed, hugged, cried…. but then the sun began to set, people departed for their homes, and the day ended.
After that day, life seemed to just go on for everyone like nothing ever happened. People still woke up in the morning, brushed their teeth, went to work. Kids got on the bus for school for their first day that following Monday. The talking heads on TV kept on talking. My kids still needed to eat, play, be put to bed. Didn’t they know my dad just died? Didn’t they know that everything had just changed? Why were they acting so, well, normal? Those around me didn’t even mention my dad or ask how I was doing. The few times I mentioned him to my husband’s family, who was in town the following week, I received blank, uncomfortable stares.
I wonder if that is how it all ends for everyone. For 67 years my dad touched people’s lives as a son, brother, sailor, husband, teacher, parent, friend…and then, in one short afternoon, everyone honors him like he meant the world to them. And, then, nothing. I find it disheartening to think that it is so easy to go on with our lives after such a loss. But we have no choice but to go on – and, besides, I really am not sure what I am supposed to be doing to continue to honor his memory. I do know that I want to know that others are still thinking of him and missing him too. I just don’t think grieving should be such a lonely, solo journey.
Loss and grieving a parent are uncharted waters that, at least in my life, no one had talked about. This journey has, of course, been sad but I also find it confusing, daunting, and lonely. How is it that something that happens to everyone is so enigmatic? I am saddened by the loss but also by how our society deals with loss. I wonder if it would be different if I were a bit older and my peers had similar experiences that enabled them to know how to offer more support. My parents peers were, without a doubt, the ones who offered more comforting words and reached out to me more than my own peers. Even still, I feel there is a silence – one that is even more remarkable given how “loud” all of his friends and family were the day of the service.
Maybe grief is a silent journey — we all do grieve in our own way and on our own timeline — but I am grasping for something more to hang onto so my dad’s memory is not tucked away so easily. Other’s memories of my dad mean so much to me – remember this the next time you talk to someone who has lost someone close to them – share a favorite memory of that person with them. Break the silence of loss.