I feel like we should talk about grief
Lyle, I’m always impressed with your willingness to be so vulnerable in these pieces. Thank for sharing so freely.
On the subject of grief, particularly of a son grieving a father, I’ve been in your shoes. I lost my dad in 2015. That first years was a blur. I felt all of the emotions (and all of the stages of grief because we don’t really process them sequentially), but never felt at ease with any of my feelings. If a happy memory of my dad popped in my head I felt sorrow or melancholy. If a sad memory of his time in the hospital came to me, I felt guilty and sad and helpless.
At the time of my father’s death, everyone told me grief would last a year. My family is Jewish, although not religious, and for Jews there really is a prescribed order to grief that ends on the one year anniversary when you put the headstone on the grave. After that, life is for the living, as they say. But when we were sitting Shiva for my dad (the day after the funeral) my best friend, who I’ve know since we were 14, told me something I’ll never forget about grief. My friend had lost his dad in 2008.
“It takes a year before you feel normal, dude, but actually that’s bullshit because it takes two years, and honestly that’s bullshit too. The truth is, it always hurts, but the rawness fades over time, except that there’s no rhyme or reason to how it fades.”
All of this is by way of saying that in the years since my father’s death I know three things.
First, that quote about grief being love with nowhere to go is right on the money.
Second, my friend was right.
Third, it’s true that grief is different for everyone, but it’s also true that everyone grieves as who they are. In other words, we bring the best and worst of us to grief, and in turn grief reveals us to ourselves. What we choose to do with those revelations, of course, is a different story.
Lyle, another beautiful thoughtful piece. I'm with you. I have more to say, in private and for another time, but you're right to observe how it is - there's no fitting into others' forms for feeling and experiences. Especially for this.
This was beautiful, and thanks for sharing your story with all of us!
My experience losing my father was different; it was sudden, and we had a lot of unresolved issues (we'd almost come to blows a few days prior). I was also a kid.
I was sad, of course, but awkward more than anything. It happened over Christmas break, and a well-intentioned teacher made sure to mention it to the class on our return. School's hard enough without everyone staring at you like an alien.
That then shifted to guilt. Why wasn't I crying? Should I be? What do people think about me? To be honest, that was harder than the grief itself.
A counselor finally told me what I needed to hear; that everyone grieves in their own way. Some people cry a lot, and some don't. Some sleep a ton, and some have insomnia, etc. How it manifests itself is less important than society would have us think. That gave me the license to let go of "what would people think?" and process things in a way that worked for me.
Thank you for this one. A few weeks ago, I reached for the phone to call my father at his assisted living facility and then remembered. It's been over a year yet tears formed in my eyes once again as it hit me. Then my dog walked into my office with a toy in her mouth and life moved again. As it will.
That line "grief is love that has nowhere to go" is so true. Grief never leaves but neither does the love. Both are heavier some times than others. I'm not sure there are rules about the best way to carry these with us or to process loss but our bodies know, our hearts know, and yes, even our distance-making brains can help. So, of course, is finding places to bring that love - brothers, sisters, mothers, and, yes, dogs. Thanks for this. It came at a good time.
I'm amazed by the honesty of this piece, Lyle. I recognise the feeling you describe, the "not being sad, or happy, or whatever, enough", and there have been times when I've questioned myself for not reacting to something the right way, or the way that other people were reacting and whom I was (or thought I was) expected to emulate.
It's so much better to know yourself and act in accordance with your real feelings than to berate yourself for not reacting in the same way as someone else, given that we all process things through filters which are deeply personal and the way we react to something and the way it affects us is influenced by those filters, and often we have no control over that.
I think it's brave to be able to dig so deeply within yourself and recognise this difference between yourself and the rest of your family. It allows you to truly grieve, in a way that makes sense to you.
Beautiful piece. Grief comes in waves where you’re fine for a long time then something hits you. My grandmother died 38 years ago and her children forever remember. They mark her passing and still feel it’s fresh.
The quote is absolutely apt for the feeling. I don’t know that’s it’s a thing that you ever get over, just pass through wider and wider crests before a potentially inevitable trough. It’s powerful and echoes through generations. As her granddaughter, I am hearing more of her story now and grieve for what could have been.
Thanks for you openness and sharing this grief with us. 🫂
Lyle!! Loved reading this. And the part about pushing through while reading it to your wife... ah, so real. Thank you for sharing. I had a period of 5 or so years in my life where I couldn't cry about anything. I didn't cry at my uncle's funeral, and if fact was laughing even though I was so sad. It does hit us all differently, and you're right. We shouldn't judge ourselves for how we grieve <3