It has been less than a month since my father's death and I have been doing a significant amount of reflecting on grief, loss and the way our society deals with these issues. At work, no one and I repeat NO ONE, acknowledged my father's death. Not one "I'm sorry" or "How are you doing?" I know that I am a new employee and that some of the people I work with are younger. But not one acknowledgment seemed so bizarre and insensitive. What are we teaching our young people in school, what are parents teaching their children about life and death?
I know that an elderly parent's death warrants less sympathy in the grand scheme of things than a young person or even middle-aged one. There was sympathy provided when my husband died. But somehow this blatant disregard in acknowledging the loss of my dad hit me very hard.
When I mentioned that my father had died on 12/21 to the group of friends I went out with on New Year's Eve, one of the women actually told me to stop talking about it because she did not want to ruin her evening. I wasn't planning of dwelling on the subject. I just mentioned it because it was a big factor in my life. To have such a major event dismissed is troubling to me.
The last week has been insane. Dealing with the repair of two vehicles, getting the boys through finals, filling out the college financial aid reports, going to work, trying to shop for an outfit to wear to my father's service (unsuccessful), and dealing with all the requirements of getting my oldest to the talent contest, in addition to all the other normal duties of life as a widowed mom pulled me under the waves. There was just too much on my plate. I was exhausted and absent minded. I ended up losing the key to our mail box and having to pay $40.00 to have the lock changed. I also lost my knitting bag and all my expensive gadgets, implements and a skein of yarn from the project I was working on.
We got home from the talent contest at 2:00 a.m. Sunday (I'll post about the talent contest in another entry). I awakened tired and still had to quickly go through boxes and bags of my father's photos and awards to take to the service, starting at 1:00. I was upset with my family for being put in the position of having to jump through hoops to attend the ceremony. I felt more consideration should have been given to my situation with the talent contest where we could have held the ceremony either the week before or after that event. Again, I constantly struggle with how so few people get how hard it is to be an only parent. To just get through a normal week is challenging enough but to add on extra ordinary events pushes me beyond my limits.
I certainly was on an adrenaline rush last week. But now I seem to have crashed. I am exhausted and it is so cold here. I just want a day to myself, to take some time to reflect on my father and to renew my spirit. I am reminded of my husband's death and how there is approval for grief during the funeral and early period which gradually dissipates around the three month mark. Now that my father's service is over I'm supposed to be magically recovered, only I am finding that I'm not. The problem becomes trying to find the time to reflect and renew. As a widowed mom there is even less opportunity to fit this into my life.
I read in Dr. Phil's column in this month's "O" magazine about a woman who feels smothered by her husband's attentiveness - she lost both her parents in the past year and he apparently is worried about her well being. She feels he is being overattentive. Good for him I want to say. There are some of us out here dealing with grief and life on our own. We don't hear many words of kindness or concern or receive the support of a loving, caring spouse.
I recently was told that phrase I have absolutely grown to hate - "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." First of all, how does God really know how much I can handle? I've pretty much reached my limit as this past week has demonstrated. Message to God here - "You can stop the challenges for awhile. They are not making me stronger. I am becoming weaker, in fact. Ease up on the worn and weary and especially the widowed. We already carry such a burden in our hearts and souls." For those who believe adversity brings on strength, I will counter that sometimes that is not the case. I know it is contrary to what one would expect. But people only can handle so much before breaking.
As for the weeks and months ahead. If I have learned anything from my husband's and my Mom's death, it is that I will not stop grieving or put my needs aside because of the discomfort of others. I need time for healing, reflection and renewal with this new loss. I won't stop talking about it. Maybe I'll ask for a day off.
The dead deserve respect and we provide that with services and memorial. But so do the living and somehow we seem to shortchange the ones left behind. We are expected to go on demonstrating strength and courage. The reality is that without taking the time for renewal and healing, it isn't really possible to go on successfully.