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  • Here Is What I Know
  • Sumner Smith
  • life

Here Is What I Know

Here is what I know about losing a parent.  It's hard.  Hard in ways you saw coming, and hard in ways you just can't understand.  You're broken, but you look whole, so that's a problem.  For months I walked around knowing there was a hole in my chest - like a black void that sometimes shrank down to a pinpoint, and things seemed almost normal, but sometimes yawned open to this big gaping hole, and I felt like I was falling into it.  And it was frustrating that no one else could see it, because it was so *obvious* to me.  That disconnect - that leads to some weirdness with the ones you love, the ones you think must *know* that you're not ok, because it's so obvious to you.  But, if you don't tell them what's going on, it turns out it's not always obvious to them.  So tell them.

I know you better pray you have a partner that is blessed with an abundance of grace for the year that you seem to have none.  Because you will need every bit of it when the black hole opens up enough that you feel like you're falling in and can't climb out.  You will find something - *something* - to latch onto to help make everything seem a little more normal.  If you're lucky it's something like yoga - you'll go every single day for months, and your friends will think your dedication is admirable, and your yoga teachers will wonder at your commitment, and you'll know that the reason you're showing up has nothing to do with either.  It's because you can lose yourself there for an hour or two, and feel a little more normal when you come out the other side. (If you're not lucky, I think you might latch onto a bottle of wine every night, because you've given up on finding anything that feels normal.  I encourage you to look for the normal and not the numb.  Because you're going to come out of the black hole eventually, and you don't want numb to be your new normal.)  

When my father was in hospice a friend of mine came to visit, a friend who had lost her dad years before.  And she said "you're never going to get over this, and you're going to think of him every single day for the rest of your life."  And I kind of thought (a) maybe you should have waited a little longer to spring this on me?  and (b) every *single* day?  But now I know her telling me that was a gift too - because I know I'm never getting over losing him, and I absolutely think of him many times a day.  And her telling me that made me feel like I wasn't the only one; I wasn't on some solitary journey.  

A good friend of mine's father died last night, and I can only stand to the side and try to fill her with my love and support, and at the same time I'm filled with the knowledge of what's before her.  It's a weird bumbling road, with black holes and not that much light, and tears and sadness - and also laughter and a huge appreciation that this person was so important to your life.  They deserve to be mourned, for you to feel big emotions on their behalf.  For their soul to know that they were meaningful, that they were loved, and their place in this world is never going to slip away.  They left their mark.  

I know that time does help.  That the one year mark seems to have left me with more equilibrium, more happy memories, more feelings of bittersweet instead of being pulled under.  The black hole seems to have filled in, with good memories and appreciation of who my father was, and what he did for me.  And I can only wish the same for my friend.   I hope that I am there with grace when she feels like she has none, and that she will know that she, and her father, are loved.

  • Sumner Smith
  • life

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