“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dad died in June 1999, over 15 years ago at the age of 52, after a two-year battle with metastic bone cancer. In the last 2 years I have started telling my grief story. The story of what really went on in my heart and mind after he died.
After dad died, the cards, letters and condolences calls flooded in. I knew that he was loved by so many, and they showed their compassion in beautiful ways. Thousands attended his funeral and beautiful flower arrangements adorned the church and funeral parlor. People said wonderful things about him; pointed out that his suffering was over and that he was in heaven, and told us we were lucky to have him. Yes, we were.
The afternoon after his funeral, though, the weight of what had just taken place hit me like a ton of bricks. I caught myself wondering as we drove home from his burial, and throughout the rest of the day and days to come “Is life just supposed to go on as usual, with one of the people I loved most in this life GONE, never to be seen again as long as I am on this earth?” I never told anyone this that I can remember, not even my grief counselor, but I was ANGRY! I’m sure she knew that was the case according to the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief model. Throughout my 28-year existence, though, I had come to believe that anger was wrong. So in an effort to appear “normal” I put my “I’m fine” mask on and never went very deep with what was really going on inside.
As I went through the motions of life – the office, the drive home, the meals, taking care of a toddler, checking in on my mom; it seemed so unfair to see the “world” continue as usual. It felt wrong to see people humming along to a tune on the radio, to hear their laughter, to see them go the movies, to have parties, to go about the usual business of life. I wanted to run up to them all and scream at the top of my lungs “Please stop for a moment, or a day, and recognize that my daddy is gone!” I know it sounds crazy, and I never would have gone through with it (or maybe I would have), but that’s what I felt. Life went on…and I buried the anger for years.