I started this blog with great plans, but it’s remained mostly untouched. I’ve been having some bloggy urges lately though, so going with it today. I’ll see where it goes beyond this.
I was just going to keep it to myself that today is the 5th anniversary of my father’s suicide. I couldn’t identify the value of sharing, and worried about how it might come across. I value birthdays and anniversaries of all kinds, but it’s easier to share a happy occasion or milestone, with the hope of friends celebrating with me, in spirit with well wishes. Sharing sad milestones is a different matter. It’s essentially asking friends to be sad with me, even for a passing moment, and a reminder to them that life is difficult, as if they don’t have enough of those reminders in their own lives. I relied heavily on my friends via social media in the weeks following my father’s suicide, and had this sense that I had already asked too much of people to be there for me.
There is also the issue I have had most years on this day: what is an appropriate, meaningful way to recognize this life-altering tragedy? The first year, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Texas from my home in New Jersey, to see my family and visit his grave. That is my favorite way to spend the day. My favorite? Most meaningful sounds better, but either way, you know what I mean. I think I did the Texas trip one other year, but after five years, I’m starting to lose track of what I’ve done each year. I couldn’t go this year because of my teaching schedule, so I’m at home with Husband. When I told him, he asked if I needed anything, if there was something I wanted to do, or if I needed to talk. I shrugged. I don’t know what I need, so I don’t know what to ask for… well, more accurately, what I need is for my father to not have committed suicide, but what is a suitable, more realistic second choice?
It was, by chance, a friend who posted a link to this article, “Getting Grief Right,” today. Timing is a funny thing. After I had decided to keep the anniversary of my father’s death off of Facebook, my go-to social media platform of choice, this article changed my mind.
As described in the article, after the weeks following a loss have passed, everyone who grieves with or for you moves on, so there’s a sense that it’s time for the bereaved person to also move on. In my case, the funeral was over, the metal grave place marker was replaced with a gravestone, his belongings were sorted and boxed. He was boxed. “The last casserole dish” was delivered. I had to move on, so I did, to the “new normal,” as people told me would happen.
This is my new normal. I still have moments of sadness, anger, regret, confusion, isolation, envy for people who have good, lasting relationships with their father, something I can’t exactly say I had. My basement is still loaded with boxes of his belongings… well, technically, my belongings now. We’re trying to declutter, so I want to get rid of a lot of it, but I’m scared of erasing him, so as time passes, there’s also fear. However, what most burdens me is this unbearable wish to go back in time for a do-over. It makes my heart hurt as intensely as it hurt during those first days and weeks. Searing pain, a tight chest, tears, lost breaths.
What good does it do to share it? The grief never goes away after all. Time changes it ever so slightly from one year to the next, but the narrative is essentially the same. It’s my narrative though. It’s my story. I need to keep telling it.