This is a very personal subject and a part of me wonders if I will publish it. But, more than anything else recently, writing has been cathartic. I want to share my experience and trust that it will resonate with others who have either lost a parent or someone dear to them (do want to add a disclaimer here: I’m not trying to say everyone experiences grief the same way).
My first week at Georgetown, I attended this reading of the incoming class’ entrance essays. Weeks earlier I had received an email asking if it would be fine if mine were read aloud…I did not realize that wasn’t a blanket email. I thought there was no way whoever would’ve picked my essay. Imagine my reaction when, among my newly made friends in a dark auditorium I heard the words, “I was fifteen the day the world went blue…” Blue…well, I was there when my father passed. I saw everything, heard everything. Blue was a color that reminded me of that event and that would continue to tinge my memories of it.
With those words, it was like someone took a spotlight and put it right on me. Though, of course, no one knew those were my words. To everyone else there, my story was just one that likely blended into others–for me it was a visceral moment. Grief makes you feel isolated. In that moment, I truly was.
Lately I’ve been going through a renewed round of grief for him. The obvious reason might be the big life shift from graduation, but this started when I was in Korea last year. I thought I had gone through the worst of it when I was in high school, but, even with time, I don’t think grief ever goes away–it just evolves.
I think what fascinates me most is not my own grief but the reaction to it from others not in my nuclear family. The change in the way people treat you is significant or even what they will assume about you. The most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me was that I’d left for college running away from my dad’s memory. I’m sure they said this because of their own pain, but it implies that I want to forget what happened. The reality being, that is simply impossible.
Aside from that, having to tell people that I don’t have a dad feels like something suffocating that I carry. I try not to say it. When they ask what my parents do, I tell them what my mom does, sometimes my what my step-dad does. But, I can’t shake the guilt of what they may think. I want them to know that I had a dad and he was great. The problem is, people don’t always want to hear your story because they don’t want to be burdened by such a thing. Grief is being in between a rock and a hard place, if you tell, you get to feel that you honor your parent but burden others, if you don’t, are you letting them down?
I often find myself wondering what he would want. There’s no way to know the specifics or how my dad might have evolved as a person given the chance. I definitely put him on a pedestal, but who could blame me? It’s natural. I appreciate my mom, my stepdad, and my brother without whom I wouldn’t feel grounded. However, there’s no mistaking that my dad left a hole that I live with. The evolution of grief is painful, but I am thankful to have had the privilege of a dad that loved me so much.
The biggest take away I’ve had from the process is that I’d rather love and get hurt. I’m an open book because of my experiences. I want to listen to other people and share my feelings too because that’s the only way to live knowing that if something happened to me, I wouldn’t feel regret.
If you read this, thank you. I know it’s a departure from lighter stuff I’ve written, but, I hope it’s interesting at least. If you’re reading this and you’ve also lost a parent or someone close to you, I hope you know you’re not alone.
We look alike, right?