This week my dad will have been gone four months. I haven’t written much about the grieving process here, partly because it’s so internal. My sadness doesn’t often take an outward, public form. And in a way that feels wrong. I’ve considered wearing a black armband or wristband, a nod to the old custom of wearing all black following a death. There’s something in that tradition, a reminder that while you may not be visibly grieving, the loss is still present.
Maybe wearing black is another way to remind yourself and the community that the pain is still fresh. That’s an important reminder for me, because in many ways, my life doesn’t look too different without dad. Since I left home, we corresponded via email and talked on the phone a couple times a week. But I’m not facing an empty spot at the dinner table every night. My life here in Alabama lacks the outward markers of his absence. It’s in my mind and heart I miss him, and the hurt comes when I realize I can’t ask his opinion on a problem or tell him about a new song I heard .
One thing I’ve often considered is that dad never went through what I am right now. Both his parents outlived him, my grandma by less than two months. Nonetheless, it’s strange to realize I’m grieving something he never did. He comforted me in some of my deepest sorrows, but this is a sorrow even he didn’t know. And in a way I’m glad. Losing a parent is one of the more natural griefs, in that the goodbye is somewhat expected. But still, it’s not a sorrow I would wish on anyone. So I’m glad my dad never went through it. He had his own sorrows that I never knew.
And in another way, I think—I hope—that he would be proud of me. Proud that I am forging a new trail, pushing ahead even though he couldn’t have told me what it’s like to travel this way.
One of his favorite sayings was “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” He’d usually say it with a smile.