Looking Ahead

On April 20, 2017, I will be able to check off a completed first year of grief.

If there was a scoreboard, I would have totally lost this fight. Grief won substantially.

I cannot believe it will be a year!  It does not seem possible.  The month he was in the hospital seemed to drag as we hung on each day’s development.

With the first year soon to tuck under my belt, society tells me this clearly signifies the end of a period. Because – as with all things – it dictates a time constraint.  As I seamlessly slip into the beginning of the second year without my dad, I should be beyond the heartache and beyond the sadness. Although those moments certainly do exist, I am nowhere near being past all the pain. Acquaintances can quickly transition into the acceptance and peace stage of one’s death, but those of us who were closely touched by a life cannot so easily dismiss the loss. Their forever absence leaves an empty hole that can never again be filled.

I appreciate my memories so much more as I’m beginning to realize how vulnerable they are. Right now, I still remember everything about him because they are still fresh, but in time I fear they will start to fade into a distant foggy recollection where they will remain. Harder and harder they will be to pull into my conscious mind. The memories are waiting only for time to send them away until they are but a dream. The sound of his voice, the one-of-a-kind bear hugs, his always-biblical and didn’t-beat-around-the-bush advice, his laugh, the love only a daddy can give, and if I’m honest, even the ones from the hospital and his last days.  I cling to them all, joyful or unpleasant.

Time has allowed reality to declare I’m no longer able to talk to or see my dad.  It used to be an instinctive thought to share with him my experience or joy or problem. But I no longer expect to see him at my mom’s house or anticipate his voice on the other end of the phone.  I no longer think about calling him to talk at four in the morning as I did in years past.

The first year certainly has established a new normal; one I’m not sure I want to embrace. But I must continue on.

Even now, I don’t always allow myself to think too deeply.  He comes to mind and I just push it away.  The confirmation of this was at the doctors’ office last week.  The doctor, as he documented my family history, ask, “And dad?” I said, “Dead.”  My abruptness as well as the truth in my answer totally caught me off guard.  I immediately felt hot tears threaten to escape my eyes.  The doctor seeing my brokenness unnecessarily apologized. When I do allow a thought to linger long enough the sadness is right there. (Sometimes it even threatens to overturn any rational thoughts I had at the time.)

Only in the last few months has the shock worn off.  I think it’s because time begins to confirm the truth you struggle (or perhaps refuse) to accept.  It was easy in the beginning to fool myself into believing I just hadn’t seen him in a while.  But my head has finally convinced my heart that he’s gone.

(And if you are trying to stay busy occupying your mind, this is not dealing with it.  You will not skip or escape the grief process; it will simply pick up where you left it, and perhaps even prolong the process.)

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