How do you heal after the death of someone you care about? Someone who cared about you?
Let’s see. It’s been 483 days since that windy Wednesday afternoon when my family said goodbye to our dad. 483 days. Are we healed yet? Am I?
At the one week mark, we were hosting a wake, planning a funeral, burying our dad’s casket in the snow. That was healing.
At the one month mark, we gathered together to handwrite thank you notes to the many, many friends and others who reached out to us during our difficult time. We laughed, we cried, we remembered great times with wonderful people, felt grateful for the presence, for the encouragement, of so many others, and honored our dad’s life and long-reaching legacy. That was healing.
After a few months, we reorganized some holiday traditions because it wasn’t the same without Dad, and we knew it couldn’t and would not have to be the same. That was sad, but healing, too.
By the time the one year mark came around, the anniversary, we all agreed it had become a value to reach out to others who had lost someone. “I didn’t know it mattered,” someone said, “until I knew how much it mattered to me.” “Should I take time off work and fly across the country for her mother’s funeral?” my daughter asked. “Absolutely,” I told her. And she did. And that was healing.
Now, here we are, 1 year 3 months and 27 days later. Are we healed? We are changed. Death is not a transaction; grieving doesn’t have a start and a finish. We likely began grieving long before Dad died. We grieved over his lost car keys, his diminished ability to play piano, his fading interest in politics and football. We grieved around his lost mobility and his waning appetite. We grieved for his unique ability to communicate, to tell a story, to recount an event that had happened years before. We started grieving long before that bitter evening in December, 2012.
And we will grieve on. But like us as people, our grief is changed. We look at a photo and smile. We remember a story and call a sibling to share the memory, to laugh and enjoy and appreciate and celebrate the memory we are so fortunate to have. Strength is unleashed as we move through our grief.
483 days. Healed? Never. Better? Much.