Friday, August 19, 2016

Nuances of grief

I have written time and time again about how no two griefs are the same, that the way one person mourns may be quite different from another and that they are each legitimate. Grief can't be compared; it can be recognized and honored however it manifests. What I am learning now is that, even within one person, no two griefs are the same, there are nuances beyond measure.

My father, Harvey Packer, died Monday after a long battle with congestive heart failure. If you'd like, you can read his obituary here. My mother and I were both with him when he died; my mother was his caregiver for the last several years.

I am not experiencing the same kind of grief I felt when Kevin died, nor the grief I felt when Brother Blue (my storytelling father) died. Right now, when I think about my father no longer being bodily on this planet, I feel relief that he is no longer suffering. I feel some sorrow that I won't have more moments of sweetness with him. I feel some other, more complicated emotions.

When Kevin died I was eviscerated. With my father's death I remain whole and I am surprised by it.

My relationship with my father was complex. I don't want to go into details, but it was sometimes quite rocky and, while I love my father and know he loved me, it was never easy. I know that has an impact on what I am feeling. Additionally, I think the death of a spouse is quite different from the death of a parent. We choose our spouses; if we are lucky they are also our best friends. Because it's a deliberate relationship rather than one of blood, it has (appropriately) different meaning than the relationship with our parents. I'm sure that has an impact, too.

Our parents are supposed to die before us and I was lucky to have him into my late 40s. I always knew my father would die in my lifetime and that knowledge likely makes this easier. What's more, Kevin's illness and death were entirely unexpected and I had little time to get used to the knowledge that he wouldn't be around. My father has been sick for several years and largely housebound for all of this year. I've had time to get used to the idea.

Yet it feels odd. My understanding of how I grieve is mostly based on losing Kevin, and that grief has been ferocious. This is not the same. What I need to remember is to be gentle with myself, just as I was when Kevin died, but part of what I need to be gentle about is that I don't feel the same devastation. Yes, I am sad. But I am okay in a way I was not (and often still am not) after Kevin died. I need to remember that being mostly okay does not mean I am callous.

Every grief is different. I need to remember that now so I can give myself permission to recognize and honor what I am feeling in this moment. I also need to remember that what I'm feeling will probably change. 

My father has died. We made more peace with each other than I ever expected and we loved one another. What more is there?

Thank you Dad. I am glad you're not suffering anymore. I am grateful for the gifts you have given me. I love you.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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