In a little over a week it will be one year since the sudden death of my father. Halloween marked the last of the major “firsts” without my dad. Somehow we’ve made it through a year of holidays, birthdays, vacations, family traditions, and milestones without him. Things that seemed impossible to even comprehend just 365 days ago. When we first lost him I almost wanted to fast forward my life to this point. I didn’t want to have to go through all the “firsts”. It was just too painful to even think about. My father was a man of deep tradition and nearly everything we do is somehow rooted in him. Mix-tapes of summer songs for vacations down the shore, an elaborate train display at Christmas, the Beatles, the Mummers parade- my Dad is everywhere.
As we began to creep closer to the one year anniversary of his death, I expected to feel some sort of relief that the “firsts” were over. Unfortunately I have found it to be quite the opposite. One thing that is more painful than experiencing these holidays and traditions without a loved one is the knowledge that we are now forming memories without them. The painful truth that my father will not be a part of future milestones and events in my life.
I am now in a place where grief undergoes a transformation. Instead of a sharp, take-your-breath-away pain, it becomes a dull ache. It is not as gaping and obvious but the ache is always there. It flares up when you least expect it. It could be a song, a dream, a smell, a memory and it all comes rushing back.
My life will forever be defined as before losing my dad and after losing my dad. I’ve learned that this is okay. Significant deaths force us to find a new “normal”. It takes time and it hurts but it’s also necessary. Grief is an indefinite journey; one that does not have a destination. Sometimes we travel alone and sometimes we meet up with others along the way. We fall down and we rely on others to help us back up. At times we will gather with new travelers to share with them our love and light; and help them in their first leg of this lifelong excursion.
In the grand scheme this is all relatively new to me and I’m learning more about the grief process everyday. I have learned one important lesson; the only thing that matters on this journey is that we keep going.