Friday, February 10, 2017

Grieving what we never had

I was talking with a friend the other day. She lost her adult son several months ago and was marveling at the cultural assumption that we grieve for just few weeks and then move on.

"I will never stop grieving him," she said, "I will never stop missing the boy I knew and the man I wish I knew."

This rang true. When my father died this past August I learned all about who he was to other people. I heard stories about him and descriptions of a man I never knew. My relationship with my father was never without tension so hearing about this relaxed, gentle man almost made me wonder if we met the same person. I didn't know him as the man others described. I wish I had.

This longing expands the sorrow I feel over his death, because I will never have a chance to know the man his friends and my cousins described. I knew only one facet of him; that side and all the others are gone now.

That's one of the aspects of grief that lingers. We mourn what we never had and now will never have. I have also realized it's one of the gifts of collective mourning. I might never have heard these stories about my father had my cousins not told them to me at his memorial service. While it adds to my sense of loss, it offers me some comfort that he had more relaxed relationships with others. It adds to my understanding of the whole man and, since we are never truly lost as long as we are remembered, remembering more of who he was, more than I knew and something closer to the whole package, means he isn't yet truly gone.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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