I’m noticing a pattern. Because of the complexity of my relationship with my dad, I am not just processing grief. My emotions fluctuate and yoyo at any given moment; like a ping pong game.
The intensity and depth of my grief confuses me. I do grieve that this person, who has known me all my life, is now gone. There is a void…an empty space at the dinner table; but as I’ve indicated previously, up until the day he died I struggled with a varied mix of emotions.
I knew his death was inevitable, but I felt no sense of urgency to “tie up loose ends” or to spend as much time as I could with him before he was gone. And I know it sounds harsh but I do not regret it. It makes me sad that I do not regret it. I question and second guess myself…but this is my truth. It would have felt forced and not really indicative of where our relationship was at.
I realized after he died and the grief did come in waves, that I do…still…have unresolved feelings towards my father. I did need further closure, but at that time I did not want to reopen Pandora’s Box of resentment and hash old feelings with him. I thought I had accepted his indifference to me years ago and placed that book on the shelf. I even convinced myself that all was forgiven as dad and I forged a mutually apathetic relationship that endured until he was gone. But his death ripped open that book and shed a blinding spotlight on this glaring deficiency, and I am forced to re-examine who this man was to me.
My dad and I were not close. I had long ago given up on the daydream that I would have a father who would be involved and interested in my life. That reality hit me very hard when I finally accepted and allowed the truth of our relationship to seep into my conscious thought. It was incredibly painful to reconcile. He was not my protector. He was not my champion. He was not my knight in shining armor. I felt at best I was a casual friend to him, at worst an annoyance and intrusion into his world.
This realization assaulted me during a time I was wading chin deep through some pretty nasty junk in my life, and failing miserably. He was indirectly involved, and when I tried to share how his actions affected me, his wall flew up before I could finish verbalizing a complete thought. He shut me down. He chose to intellectualize so he wouldn’t have to feel my pain. Intellectualizing was his coping mechanism, you see. He could take all my rage, my anguish, my pain and stuff it into a tiny little space labeled “Do Not Open” so he could remain unaffected…completely minimizing the raw emotions bleeding out of me. He heard my voice, but he did not listen to me. It crushed me and I was devastated…to my core. Years later, during another random intense conversation he admitted to me that he was more concerned about the perception of others than the security and well-being of his family…of me. It was his truth. He was ashamed of it, but it didn’t change the course he was on. That was my light bulb moment.
And yet…I grieve.
And my mind screams silently inside my skull in frustration and despair…How could he say he was proud of us?!? How could he say he loved us!?! He had no right to share that with others when he couldn’t even share it with us! I have no idea who that man was. That man who everyone seemed to love and respect, who was a mentor and a teacher, who was witty and thoughtful and intelligent…that was not my reality. Hearing how proud he was of me or how much he loved me from people who so obviously knew him better than I did is painful, like salt poured into a gaping wound. He did not tell me. He knew he was dying. He could have written it down for us. He could have left us a bread crumb of peace and validation. But he did not. He was a selfish man.
And so, once again I am grieving his indifference, not only his death. Something I thought I had come to terms with rears its ugly head and I am back to that confused and hurt little girl trying to be open and vulnerable with the most important man in her life. I cannot look to him for answers, but I feel I must push forward. Each of us will choose how we will move on. One day at a time…