I’ve been reading a book called Journaling Through Your Grief, by Robyn Lindsey. It’s a self-published book with not a lot of fancy bells and whistles, but some good content. I’ve been following the thirty prompts, writing to one each day or so. Well, today’s prompt was “How has the death of your loved one changed or shaped you?” Hm. This was a tough one. So here was my answer. For some reason, I feel compelled to share.
I think I can only answer this question by way of comparison. When my mom died, I felt her presence, even heard her voice sometimes—so clearly. I was sure there was an afterlife, that she loved me, that she could still “see” me somehow. Her death shaped me in that I never took another moment for granted. Of course, I forgot, and I still do take time for granted sometimes. But I stopped being afraid to live my life. Nobody could hurt or scare me. I had been through the absolute worst and had survived. I was untouchable. I stopped waiting for the “right time” and started doing what I really wanted to do, whether or not I could immediately pay for it. I did more. I took more chances. I took classes. I traveled. In so many ways, my experience of grieving over my mom made me stronger and more certain of myself in the world.
With Daddy, it’s been so different. Our relationship was so much more fraught, so many things unresolved. Since his death, I’ve noticed patterns from my relationship with him coming to the fore: unhealthy patterns. I’ve pushed myself harder than I did with my mom. I’ve had more to do. I’ve had to be tough and keep it together. I couldn’t fall apart, the way I did when Mom died. I had a kid, a husband, and graduate school. I’ve had a funeral to plan and business affairs to settle. It’s been hard in a totally different way. Maybe I’m using all of this busy-ness as an excuse not to let his death change me, not to grieve. But I think I am grieving. I’m just doing it differently this time.
I’m writing more, for one. I’m writing about our relationship and my conflicting feelings about him. One essay I’ve written about him was not only published but nominated for a prize. And even though I haven’t felt his presence like I did with Mom, he’s in my dreams almost every night. My subconscious may be his only way to reach me, since my defenses are down when I’m asleep. But also, the lack of his presence and voice after his death has made me doubt my certain beliefs about an afterlife. I was so sure I knew how things worked, and it just wasn’t like that with him. I question myself more, now. I examine my perceptions and wonder if they’re accurate or wishful thinking. My guess is they’re a combination of both, but I don’t know. And that’s really the point. I don’t know. And that’s not such a bad place to be. It’s uncomfortable, to be sure. But he always congratulated me for questioning beliefs I clung to. So maybe I was wrong, and I don’t know how things work. I don’t know if he or my mom is really there.
But maybe my uncertainty will help me get somewhere new. Hopefully, it will make me less annoying to other people who are grieving, who are having a different experience than the ones I’ve had. But other than that, I can’t even guess yet how it will change me as the years unfold.
How about that? I don’t know everything, after all.