“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”E.A. Bucchianeri
Grief is a funny thing. It’s not linear, there is no clear-cut path from A to B. No two experiences are ever the same, and it’s more like a spiral than a straight line.
Losing someone that we love is never easy. As adults, we know death is a given for all of us. It’s the double-edged sword of loving. Yet, often we live in denial, hoping that it doesn’t come knocking on our doors.
It’s almost two years since my Dad died. Two years. I don’t even know how that is possible. Two years and at times the grief still hits me squarely in the chest and takes me by surprise.
A couple of weekends ago, I took a trip back to the village that I grew up in, where I lived with my Dad until I was 13, and where he lived for the rest of his life, in the same house. His wife died last year, so we’re now clearing out their home so we can put it on the market.
With time to think on the three-hour drive back, it hit me again that he was gone. That this visit to my childhood home wouldn’t be like others before. It would be a cold, empty house that greeted us, with no warm welcome, no Radio playing, and no hug.
My Dad and I never had the closest of relationships, I think he was a man who didn’t always express or know how to express his emotions. I knew he loved me. And I hope he knew I loved him.#
Having not been someone I spoke to daily or saw very often, I don’t notice his absence every day. I’ll catch myself thinking “Oh, I must tell that to Dad when I speak to him” only to realise I can’t and I won’t. In my mind, he is still in his home, pottering around, making things in his sheds, tending to his garden, or doing his crossword.
Walking into his home without him there was hard. I’ve been in once before since he died, when his wife was still alive and we went to collect the things that he had left us in his will. It was a hard, strange meeting, where we felt very unwelcome and I left feeling bereft.
Grief comes in waves. Some days I barely feel it, others it engulfs me. I once read that grief is all the I love you’s we didn’t get to say and that feels so true. We’d not seen my Dad for three years when he died, as he lived 150 miles away and was still living in lockdown rules even though they had been lifted. They still weren’t going out, or seeing anyone. So when he was taken ill, rushed to hospital and died two weeks later, we didn’t have time to process and felt as though the world had been ripped from beneath our feet. So much time lost, so many things unsaid.
The one thing I am eternally grateful for, was the last time I saw him conscious, and I had to head back home to Wales for a couple of days, was ‘I love you’ he told me he loved me as I walked away, and the next time I saw him he was in a coma.
No matter how old we are, we’re never ready to say goodbye to our parents. It reminds us of our own mortality, that life is short and we mustn’t waste a minute of it.
Grief might crack us open, but in those cracks, we can experience life. Only in our openness and vulnerability can we truly experience life. Sitting with the feelings when they come, allowing them to come and go like waves. With the sadness, finding joy at happy memories. Talking with loved ones. Laughing over silly stories, giggling at old photos.
Grief shapes us into something new, we’re never the same after losing someone we love, but we can take that grief and embrace the vulnerability it brings, and let it strengthen us, let it make us raw, let it push us forward to enjoy life.