A friend’s mother died last week. It brought back memories of the day my father died and the feelings that engulfed me then.
Losing anyone is – painful seems such an inadequate word – I became numb, for weeks.
Throughout this time the only subject I was interested in was Dad. I constantly wanted to talk about him, what type of man he was, the things he did, the things he didn’t do, the way he had impacted my life.
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.
It was strange, I wasn’t sure at first, but as the days went on I was certain of it. After the obligatory condolences, many people avoided mention of him. Subtle techniques were used, changing the subject, having to leave the room, using the children for a focus point, but it was definite.
The more I instigated conversations with Dad in them, the more artful most people became in shutting these conversations down. Yet it was during these conversations that some of the numbness would dissipate.
It was only with a few friends that I was allowed the freedom to talk of Dad, and talk constantly, without any constraints. I couldn’t stop. With each word he was fixed a little better in my mind, and the pictures of him got clearer.
Little moments that had not been spoken of in years came out. Arguments we’d had were debated, experiences we’d shared were displayed and discussed. And I cried until I didn’t think I could anymore, and then I cried some more.
The more I talked about Dad, the more emotion came out: anger, loss, regret, fear. Some emotions I still don’t have names for. These friends never knew what they were going to see when they walked into my house. Or what they would hear, but they came, and they listened.
They weren’t uncomfortable with my grief. They let me run through every emotion, laughing and crying at times with me as I slowly pushed the numbness away and let the pain that is grief do what it must.
I learnt not just about loss and grief during that time. During my lifetime friends have given me so many things. In those days following Dad’s death they gave me another gift. They taught me that no emotion need be feared. They each have a purpose, especially when you experience loss, and you are overwhelmed by so many emotions all at once.
Talking about Dad was for me the way through those emotions. It was also a way to hold on to the father daughter bond I was terrified I’d lost. When I was told Dad had died, my first thought was that now I was no longer anyone’s child.
The older generation was me. I was next in line to go. Is that why losing a parent, especially your last parent is such loss? Even when you know they had a long life. When you know that they were sick, in pain, ready to go. When I work out the answer to that question I’ll let you know.
In the coming weeks I will try to do for my friend, what my friends did for me. I will let her talk about her Mum as much as she wants. I will try not to be uncomfortable with her emotions, so that she feels free to work through them. I will listen as she remembers her Mum.
And when I go home, I will look through the old photo album I pulled out yesterday and remember the quiet stoic man I called Dad.