Today we have a special treat. Long time friend of Bliss Habits, Karen Blackburn is here with her take on grief; uncovering for herself a different kind of sorrow.
My Father died earlier this year. He was 79 and a smoker of 60 (ish) years. He became unwell in the New Year and was diagnosed with lung cancer just before his birthday in February. His treatment was radiotherapy, but shortly after the course was completed, he developed an infection that his body was too weak to fight. He died on April 2nd with most of his family around him. My daughter was leaving on a school trip that day and my husband and I had booked a birdwatching holiday at the same time. The family agreed that since there was little we could do, we should continue with the holiday. We enjoyed our holiday and our daughter had a great time on her school history trip – visiting World War II battlegrounds in Europe. We got home two days before the funeral.
My Dad had been a popular man and his funeral was well attended. Apart from a few words by the Minister, we conducted it ourselves. My eldest daughter read out a poem she had written for her Granda and my middle daughter read the reading. Dad had written down his own eulogy before he died and we only had to add the things that we thought important about his life – that he hadn’t. My sister read our thoughts, and I read his. Many tears were shed – but not by me. Everyone told me how brave I was and how well I was doing holding things together. I felt like I was being hard-hearted, my sister felt I was being strong.
The thing was I didn’t feel like that was what I was doing. I felt nothing but acceptance – that it had been his time. And I felt guilty that I didn’t seem to be grieving like everyone else. As a child, I worshipped my Dad, so why was I not sad when he died?
As an adult I came to see that my Dad was just as flawed as everyone else, but as a child I couldn’t see it. He was out at work all day, so discipline was my Mum’s job – and she was a shouty Mum. Nothing I did was right. I was not allowed to have opinions of my own or learn my own lessons. I was always wrong and my sister was always right. Approval was gained by conforming. I didn’t really like my Mum (I’m not sure that I do now) and as I got older, I realised that my Dad was complicit in trying to force me into the mould that they wanted me to be in. To this day I find it difficult to be comfortable in my own skin – my body isn’t right, the way I look after (or don’t) money isn’t right, allowing my daughters to have their own opinions isn’t right, the way I look after my home isn’t right – in effect, I’m not right. Clearly, my sisters’ had a different experience growing up – they seem to be well balanced, confident women who can’t understand why I would be critical of my upbringing.
And so, I feel guilty. Guilty for being different – not what, or how, I’m supposed to be.
I read Lisa’s post about how she felt when she lost her Dad – surely that’s how you are supposed to feel at the loss of a parent.
And I feel shame that these thoughts even go through my head – so imagine how it would feel sharing them. The fear of comparison and judgement – the fear of eliciting disapproval.
But maybe I’m not the only person feeling this way – and maybe it would help someone else to know that they are not the only one.
Grief is what you feel when you lose someone or something you are attached to. It can be a person, a pet or a possession. I’ve not grieved for my Dad, because I had little attachment to him – whether that was a result of my upbringing or because I accepted that with his age and illness it was his time to go.
I look back with fond memories and can remember happy family times, so in reality it is no loss – he lives on in his three daughters and his five grandchildren.
My greatest suffering is not grief, but rather in the ability to acknowledge that I am what I am – even if that doesn’t conform to convention.