On grief

I am a Resolutioner, through and through. I have always been seduced by the optimism of clean slates and fresh starts, by the potential of empty calendars and pages unwritten. With the exception of last year, I always spend much of the last week or so of each December thinking, reflecting, taking stock of my life and what the previous twelve months have brought.

Last year I didn't set resolutions because much of the last month of 2021 was spent anticipating the end of my dad's life, and the beginning of 2022 was spent in the chaotic and overwhelming aftermath.

Today is New Year's Day 2023, and tomorrow is a year since he died.

We went back to Connecticut for Christmas this year, and it stunned me how neutral I felt about the day itself. It was a beautiful day with my family, for sure - but I thought it would be more emotional. I thought the weight of his absence would be absolutely crushing. And it just ... wasn't.

Grieving has been a complicated experience, with no emotion on days I thought would be important yet floods of tears on random afternoons. I cried when I took my son on a camping trip, and when my sister and I took a vacation abroad. But not on his birthday, or Father's Day. When I cry for my dad, it's almost always over missed opportunities - activities and events he put off for a someday that never came, and things he chose not to have, be, or do for reasons none of us ever understood.

I talked to my mom and my sister about it a lot. My sister said she felt similarly about the numbness of this Christmas, and it made sense - we'd said goodbye so many times, we'd been warned or threatened or alerted so frequently that the actual goodbye was heavy with guilty feelings of relief - this is it, he's not hurting anymore, but also - no more updates on downward turns or hospital visits, which were weekly if not daily towards the end. No more anxiety about his condition - finally, a conclusion, for better or worse. No more commas or ellipses - just one dark definite period at the end of his story.

Dad and I used to talk daily (if not more frequently), and I thought there would be this devastating empty space. It hasn't been at all what I expected - and saying that now, I don't know what I ever expected.  Did I ever even think about what it would feel like to lose him? Thinking about someday losing my mother has me in tears already - there's so much more I want to say to her, so much more I want to do together, so much still I want to learn about her. When I think now about what I would say to him if given one more chance, it's mostly angry, confused, and bitter. I know that much of my processing has been affected by what we've experienced during his last few days and since he passed - what was said, what we learned. There's still a lot of unresolved hurt there, and I don't quite know what it will take to make peace with it.

I don't know if I will cry tomorrow - like I said, the anniversaries and birthdays and special memories don't typically trigger the feelings for me. But today, I'm thinking about him, as I set goals, intentions, and resolutions for the new year. I'm trying to get back to my routine of annual retrospection, back to a little bit of normal.


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