It has been eleven weeks since my father passed away. The phone calls and messages have stopped. No more flowers, cards and visits. In fact, life has returned to normal as if nothing happened. However, my father’s death did happen which caused a ripple effect of grief.
Life as I’ve known it before 6 April 2019 will never be the same again. Removing one person from a family unit which has always been a supportive structure; changes the entire dynamics. Although our family structure is not falling apart; the foundation has slight cracks. Perhaps those who don’t have that kind of unit won’t understand.
So what is the ripple effect of grief that I am referring to? Let me explain.
In my mom’s case it has been a loss of a spouse and marriage which spanned over 49 years. The loss of future plans and milestones e.g. celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, growing old together and seeing the grandchildren graduate. A loss of emotional and physical support. The emptiness of a house and the loss of security and its protector who was there to guard it and keep things safe. The loss of a homemaker and caregiver. I see the loneliness of no longer having a partner to share your inner most thoughts with. Every conversation that she has somehow reverts back to my father. It is normal as her loss is so much different to ours. For her it has been a lifetime of love, trust, happiness as well as tribulations.
My parents have always been very independent. But now things are different, my mom has become more dependent on us to assist with things that my dad used to do. Our roles had to be redefined. Somehow we have become the safety nets, fixers, as well as the social and emotional support structures. It has been a loss of familiarity, routine and a change in lifestyle for all of us.
As the children, we have added responsibilities which we never had before. Because my mother is ageing and we can’t leave her to her own devices; every decision we make is based around her needs and wellbeing. Death is a reality and what happened brought about a change in how we view life. It created an awareness and conversations of my mother’s mortality and our own. Getting all our documentation in order and a clear direction of how our affairs should be handled.
The effect that my father’s death has on me is different to that of my sister. Not only was he our father but an advisor, stalwart and confidant. I still struggle to wrap my head around the fact that I need to refer to him in the past tense. The loss of family traditions as celebrations and experiences are no longer the same. In fact, two Sundays ago, I anticipated Father’s Day because for the first time in my 43 years, I don’t have the physical presence of my father in my life.
Because my father played such a vital role in our lives, we feel the effect every single day. Yes life goes on and we need to learn to adjust but it doesn’t happen overnight. So many other losses followed his death, which makes the healing process difficult. Things that seemed insignificant before has become secondary losses. As the grieving process is still so raw; these secondary losses extensively contribute to the grief that we are already feeling. Causing a ripple effect of grief.
Grief is a process that is tricky and complicated. It affects everyone differently. Some people express their grief by crying and expressing their feelings. Others are angry, resentful or they retract and go all quiet. People had this perception that I handled my father’s death with ease and that I am emotionally strong. What people don’t know is that three weeks after my father passed away I became physically ill. I had a balance disorder, coupled with other symptoms of dizziness, nauseas, severe headaches, low pulse and blood sugar levels. I underwent tests and the results indicated that everything was normal. Later it was diagnosed as stress related to my grief. It caused physical and mental overexertion.
After identifying and acknowledging these multiple losses; I slowly had to start dealing with it in order to cope and adapt. Getting the necessary support and rest helped. This brought about an improvement in my health. However, it is still an ongoing journey.
Grief has no easy fix, there are no rules attached to it and it has no time line. Regardless of how long it takes and how complicated it might be, there is always hope to embrace life again.