Learning Loss Before Love
As I sit here, looking at this blank page, my eyes are already beginning to water. There are parts of me that have stayed hidden for a long time, feelings I am not sure I will ever be able to face. Even as my fingers hit the keys I question every letter.
My best writing comes from my heart, and from the dark corners of my life that have molded me into the person I see staring back at me in the mirror. My writing is the most honest portrayal of myself. It is my hopes and dreams, it is my wants, and fears. There is nothing more frightening than confronting the skeletons that have been hidden for so long, I almost forgot they were there. Almost.
Forgive me if I am all over the place, this is a hard topic, but one I feel I must write.
My father died when I was six.
Rereading that sentence quiets my brain. I’ve avoided this for so long, I don’t even know how or what to think or feel. A part of me shuns myself, as if I am being a big baby. Just get over it.
How do you get over a loss so deep and profound it leaves you empty? Do you ever get over it, or just learn to live with it? Or maybe, if you’re anything like me you bury it so deep the only way it can manifest itself is in a reoccurring dream that wakes up you up in the middle of the night. A dream so vivid and heart breaking it leaves you sobbing into your pillow until you eventually cry yourself back asleep.
I had never seen a dead body until my dad’s funeral. I remember that distinct smell of what I can only imagine to be embalming fluid. To this day, it was the worst thing I have ever smelled, and I’ve been to many funerals since. I remembered him wearing the ring on his pinky finger that my siblings and I had got him. Looking back, I didn’t realize this was my last chance to say goodbye, and I ruined it. I couldn’t bring myself to kiss him goodbye and I hate myself for it. I know I shouldn’t. I was a scared little girl staring at the lifeless body of her father, and yet that thought does nothing to ease my bitterness.
When I think of him, I try not to remember his funeral, although it always finds a way to grab a hold of my thoughts. I try to think of the good memories. There’s only a few I can remember, and they are mine, they are the only piece of him I have left, that and his wallet. I go through it from time to time; it always ends with me in tears, so usually it stays in my closet in a manila envelope gathering dust. But my memories give me joy, and appreciation. Though I can never speak of them, knowing I will lose it and end up in tears, I like to think of them as a secret between him and I. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have them. I can’t lie, sometimes, when I replay them in my mind, I become enraged. Mad I don’t remember more. It feels as though someone stole a life time of memories I could have had. That I should’ve had. Sometimes it feels like they’re not enough, and they aren’t, but they’re better than nothing.
I’ve been to his grave site one Easter, years and years after his death. I remember that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach when I found out he doesn’t even have a headstone. I can’t afford a headstone, and the minute I can I will put one there. He deserves at least that. I’ve never been back since that day. How could I? Knowing there is nothing there but a bush to mark where his bones lie. It hurts to even think about. So I try not to.
Six is the blissful age of innocence. Children don’t know the harsh reality of the cruel world. Or it’s supposed to be. Tragedies happen at all ages, but there is something soul crushing about a child learning, far too early, that life is unpredictable, unstable, and absolute chaos. At six you cannot comprehend death. I remember crying uncontrollably, my mother brought me into her bedroom and wiped my tears away, pleading with me to tell her what was wrong. My answer was simple, and at that age, understandable. I was afraid I would never see my dad again. She looked me right in the eyes, and said, “You won’t.”
Now, before you go on thinking how awful she was to crush my innocence, you have to understand my mother. She’s a strong, independent, no nonsense woman, who lost her mother at a young age. She worked three jobs to support three kids. She is the strongest woman I have ever met. In her eyes, I believe she thought it was better to tell me a hard truth, rather than encourage the delusions of a hopeful little girl. I doubt she realized how much of an impact that moment had on the rest of my life. It was that moment I realized that the world was an unkind, ruthless place, and the only way to survive it was to become tough enough to withstand it.
At six, I learned to suppress my emotions, something I struggle with today. It affects my relationships; it affects how I behave around certain people. I am quick to anger, not knowing at the time that at the root of my anger was other emotions I had never properly learned how to cope with. I’ve come to realize these bottled up emotions are the foundation for my anxiety, which is crippling. How much of my life and what I’ve done with my life has been at the behest of my anxiety. It has controlled every aspect of me for far too long.
There’s something to be said for a child who knows pain before pleasure. Who learns hurt before they learn joy. Who experiences loss before love. What happens in our past so greatly affects who we become. Some are stripped of their innocence before then could even enjoy it. The truth is life hardens us all, some before others.
I really don’t know if there was a purpose to this post. I fear it is all over the place and pointless. It is the first time I have ever really talked about his death, and how it affected me and still affects me. Maybe I hoped to have a self-realization from writing it down, and now I am worried I am just blabbering on making absolutely zero sense. Either way, I will post it, in hopes it will resonate with someone. And if it does, just know you are not alone.