It was my father’s birthday a few weeks ago, the fourth since he passed away. My sisters and I are currently spread across Europe, so we arranged to video call on the day. And for the first time in a while, we were all completely honest about how much it sucked.
We didn’t do that bullshit thing where we follow something sad by saying he’s watching over us or how lucky we are for the time we did have with him. Instead, we were transparent and cynical, which was exactly what we needed. We talked about anger, bitterness and regret.
One of the things I mentioned in this session of unloading was that it feels like this grief has forever ruined good moments for me. It isn’t just my sadness at this loss, it’s how much happiness it will steal in the future.
Your sadness isn’t just confined to the loss. You’re not sad about their passing, the event of their death, but rather you’re sad about the continued absence of them. From that moment on, they are missing from your life, and you have to live with that. It’s like going through life with only one sock on, sometimes you can forget about it, but other times it’s all you can think of as it rubs against your ankle.
That sadness will always be present, because their loss will never change. Death is the most final thing out there. So for the rest of your days, that sadness will be a part of you, whether you’re actively thinking about it or not.
But aside from your general happiness, grief will also steal from specific moments. As every good moment, every chance for celebration, will now have a flipside to it. If my sisters achieve something incredible, I will be so proud of them, and yet sad that my father is not there to witness this. When my sister climbed Kilimanjaro, I cried because I knew how badly my father would have wanted to witness this. And I know her marathon will also be unfairly tinged with that sadness.
When I think of how great my other sister’s partner is, and how well they’re suited for each other, I feel such regret that my father will never get to meet him, will never get to see her be with someone who loves her so unconditionally.
If there are weddings, births, promotions, new homes or whatever else, my father will not be there to see it, and so that celebration will be accompanied by my grief and a dose of bitterness. If I achieve my life’s dream of having a book published, it will be with the knowledge that he will never read it, he will never know.
In ‘Conversations on Love’ by Natasha Lunn, this exact sentiment is addressed in one of the interviews:
“But I have a dear friend who has a beautiful house, a husband and two kids, and every moment of happiness in her life is undercut by the loss of her mother, when she was in her early twenties. She can’t feel joy without feeling that loss.”
Grief is continuous, and yet we also feel it in some moments more than others. Grief doesn’t just steal the happiness of a moment, but rather it poisons future moments of joy. It’s important to recognise this, so we know what someone will need in such a moment, so we respect their sadness and their joy, even though it feels easier to push them toward the nice emotion.
My father will not be here for so many monumental moments, and it’s unfair. But he contributed to each of them in how he raised my sisters and me. He gave us the tools and the drive to go after these things, he believed in us before he had any reason to. He won’t be there, but his work will be, and somehow that has to be enough. All I can do is work to make such moments even more special for my sisters, as I know they’ll be feeling this loss as well. I’ll have to celebrate enough for the both of us, and recognise that the sadness accompanying happiness is simply my love for him.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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