It has been over two months since we scattered Dad’s ashes. For a couple of weeks after that day, I felt peace hemming me in. I felt bound by it; contained and safe. I told myself that I had drawn a line under my grief – that I would not forget Dad, of course, but that I would no longer be stalled by sadness. I would get on with living my life in the here and now.
It turns out, however, that grief doesn’t allow itself to be boxed up so efficiently. There is no such thing as ‘closure’ (which in many ways is a relief, as I have always hated the smug overtones that word brings with it). There are only chinks of light in the long, dark days of deep sadness.
Sometimes that sadness prevents you from going out or talking to anyone unless you absolutely have to. Sometimes it fells you, folding you in two as you grip hold of a chair for support and howl like a wounded beast. Sometimes it makes you angry – angry that other people’s dads are still walking around, fit and healthy, enjoying their retirement and their relationship with their grandchildren. Sometimes it makes you weep quietly as you think of the things you have recently experienced which you long to share with your dearly departed.
I fear that my husband is growing weary of my bleak moods. He tries to understand and be sympathetic, he is loving and attentive. But his frustration at not being able to bring me out of this is getting to him, I know.
‘Does everything remind you of your dad?’ he asked, the other day.
The weather: today it is a beautiful crisp, clear day with a sharp frost and I think, ‘Dad would have been out on the river this morning’, or ‘Dad would make porridge on a day like this.’
A song on the radio: I am singing along, and Dad’s face pops into my mind, singing it too. I can see the way he raises his eyebrows as he attempts a note that is out of his natural range, or the way he tucks his chin in when going for a lower one.
A wooden spoon: I am stirring a sauce and I see his hand on the handle; his hand adding spices and exotic flavours. I see his head bend to sip from the spoon and taste it for seasoning.
A TV programme: I laugh at a joke which makes my family groan and I think, ‘Dad would have got it.’
A book I have just read: I think of how I would have recommended it to him, shared it with him.
A bird at the bird table: he loved to listen to their song.
Everything, anything – sometimes nothing at all can act as a trigger. He is in my mind all the time. I can hear his voice, I can see his smile, I can feel his arms around me.
There is no such thing as closure. Not when you have had someone’s love for forty-five years. Not when that love has formed you: physically, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally.
‘I’m not sure what I believe about life after death,’ a friend said recently, ‘but I do know that love lives on. You can’t wipe out a lifetime of love. Do you even want to?’
So maybe there is no end in sight to this grief. Maybe it’s because the road is long with many twists and turns, maybe it’s because I’m in a tunnel right now. Or maybe I just have to accept this burden and learn to carry it with me along the way, because it has become part of who I am.