A special welcome to anyone who is new to The Grieving Room. We meet every Monday evening. Whether your loss is recent or many years ago, whether you have lost a person or a pet, or even if the person you are "mourning" is still alive ("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time) you can come to this diary and process your grieving in whatever way works for you. Share whatever you need to share. We can't solve each other's problems, but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.A link to all previous Grieving Room diaries.
Last Friday marked the second anniversary of my dad’s death. As everyone tells you, in some ways it gets easier, but there is still that hole that remains; a void in my life that no one else can fill. I am very much my father’s daughter. My personality is much like his, and losing the person who was most like me in the world—the one person I could confide in, bounce crazy ideas off, or just debate with--felt like losing a part of myself.
Since his death, my mom’s dementia has accelerated, and it is heart-wrenching to hear her ask repeatedly where he is or when he’s coming home. Sometimes she remembers spontaneously, other times someone will explain to her that he’s gone, and occasionally this triggers a wave of inconsolable grief—she’ll sob for hours, pausing only to ask questions like: “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Why wasn’t I at the funeral? Where is he buried?” Of course, dealing with her limitations and issues complicates my own grieving process—ripping off the scabs that cover the wound of his death.
But in other ways, dealing with her problems is almost a relief. Caregiving is a role in which I am experienced and comfortable. Good thing--as of last night, she's back in the hospital, and it looks like she'll come home on IV antibiotics in a few days. The mundane tasks of attending to her needs and the demands of my real life had kept me occupied for several years, allowing me to ignore the growing emptiness inside that suddenly became a gaping chasm with the loss of my dad, who in many ways provided balance, focus and perspective to my life.
The loss of the one person who I’ve always been able to use as a sounding board left me very much adrift, and after his death, I found myself floating—casting about for a new purpose—a second act.
Approximately a year ago, around the first anniversary of his death, I began a new endeavor that has challenged me in ways I couldn’t even have imagined when I started. I immersed myself in learning a new skill—spending upwards of 60 hours a week trying to master it, putting the needs of my husband and (adult) children on the back burner. You might say I was hiding out—I prefer to think of it as preparing for a journey.
The journey has begun, but not in the way I would have predicted or anticipated. I have always been a very closed-off, self-sufficient, strong person, but in the last few months I have opened up in ways I never thought possible. It began with my frustration with my lack of progress in my new field, and of my utter breakdown caused by my inability to master it. My first reaction was to pick up the phone to call my dad and walk through the situation with him, but, of course, my hand froze halfway to the receiver when I realized the futility of that instinct. Still hurting, I reached out to an internet acquaintance—leaning on him in a way I have never done with anyone but my dad--and the act of asking for and receiving support began a cascade of changes that have turned my life upside down.
That one event has been the catalyst that has changed me completely. It turned my focus outward, and showed me a world I had ignored for so long. In the few short months since that night I have connected to more people both on the internet and in real life than I had in years. Caregiving can be a very isolating experience, and for an introverted misanthrope like me, it provided the perfect excuse to avoid social situations. Shortly after my dad’s death I remember lying in bed one night wondering if anyone outside my immediate family would notice or care if I died. I no longer feel that way. I have opened up, reached out, given and received support and friendship from so many people in these last few months, and though I’m still working on finding my footing, in many ways I am happier than I can ever remember being.
I still miss my dad, but in the wake of his death, I have found my second act. I have picked up the pieces and discovered a purpose and passion in my life that will propel me forward. I also have friends to keep me company on the journey. I think my dad would be very proud of my successes, both personal and professional.