Dad, Grief

Could I Get Any More Depressing?

My brother came into Huntsville for dinner earlier this week. It just worked with a trip for work he was making and it was something my heart needed more than anything. To see the one person in the world who I know misses Dad as much as I do.

We spent some time talking about how we’re “dealing” with things. What times are the hardest, when it hits us, what annoys us the most about the way people react to our grieving, and what sympathies really pluck our heartstrings. We both feel like we’re looking at the world in a different way, but neither of us have figured out what changes that will bring to our lives.

When I got the call that Dad had died in hospice, I told them I could be there in four hours and to please leave him there so I could say Goodbye. I had already discussed this with my brother, that I’d want to say goodbye to Dad one last time. They said they’d keep him there, and to just get there as soon as I could.

It took me longer to get the family packed up than I thought it would and we hit horrid traffic leaving town. It ended up being almost five hours before I got there, and I started panicking that they would have to take the body before I could say goodbye. MrZ didn’t really think I’d want to be with him long once I got there, but I knew I would. He pulled into the hospice and I literally jumped out of the car and ran inside, terrified I was too late. Of course I wasn’t.

I guess there’s nothing that really prepares you for seeing the dead body of someone you love. The body without the soul. Or the spirit. Or the lifeforce. Whatever you want to call it. If it’s a person you knew for a long time alive and energetic, seeing their lifeless body is a shocking thing. But I’m so glad I did it. As I was telling my brother, it has been really helpful to have that starkly honest image in my head to remind me: Dad’s gone. Because there are many times where I feel like it’s still not real. I say the words, “Dad’s dead,” but the truth of that statement is off somewhere else. The words mean nothing when I say them because there’s still a part of me who sees him at the next holiday, or in his house, or hears him on the phone. But that picture – the picture of his soulless body in hospice. That picture is there like a flash of lightning to remind me of the painful truth: He is No More.

If there’s anything I’ve learned these last few weeks is that I need that reminder. I need that stark image in my mind to shake me back to the reality of life without my Dad. I wonder how I’d be coping if I didn’t have that image, and I’m fairly certain I’d be much deeper in denial. While it’s a painful image and one my Dad would have hated me having – I’m glad it’s there.

He’s gone. I’m still crying at weird moments (like during Chuck because it was the one show he watched) and my heart still hurts when I see his name scrolling through the contacts in my cell phone. (Why can’t I delete his name out of my contact list? WHY?) The night is the hardest. The kids keep me distracted during the day but once they’re in bed? And the house is quiet? I’m left alone. Looking at his furniture in my bedroom. His books on my bookshelves. I get angry because someone so healthy should get to live to see their great-grandchildren. I get jealous because other’s still have their Dads. I get sad because I miss him. Still. Always.

So, it was good to see my brother. To see the one person in the world who has the same hole in their heart as I do.

38 thoughts on “Could I Get Any More Depressing?”

  1. My aunt, who was my mom’s only sister, passed away in December 2007. I still have her on my AIM buddy list, and because her screen name started with an “a,” I see it every time I am on Gmail. It almost makes me feel better, like I could IM her any minute, if I wanted to…even though I know I can’t.

    You and your family are in my thoughts

  2. You have me wondering if the reason I never processed the grief from my brother’s death almost 13 years ago is that I didn’t have anyone nearby who shared it, since we lived 12+ hours from family. (Well, that and the fact that I have come to realize lately that I have been emotionally constipated [for lack of a better word] most of my life, as far as unpleasant emotions go.) I am just now starting to grieve his loss, and it is really strange. So glad you are able to do it now.

  3. I have not lost any close to me but my hubby lost his brother three years ago this month and he has yet to ‘deal’ with it. We lived in Oregon at the time and it took almost a year to recover his brothers body from the river after the car wreck. My poor hubby has admitted he isn’t ready. I’m scared of the day he faces it because I’m not sure i”ll be able to help him. I know that once he has the closure of visiting the grave and knowing that yes, he is gone, that he will eventually be able to move on. Until then he still grieves a little bit each day.

    ::hugs:: to you and I think not deleting his number is normal-at least in my book.

  4. Oh, this all sounds so, so familiar. I too wanted to see my dad laid out–my mom arranged for it for us even though Dad was to be cremated. She thought that my brother and I needed that to make it clear to us that our dad was GONE and to help with closure. (Mom was the one to discover Dad unconscious, call 911, and see the paramedics try to resuscitate him and then pronounce him, but my brother and I couldn’t get there fast enough.) I would have regretted it if I hadn’t seen him, even though I knew that it would be one of the hardest things I’d ever done. (Yes, it was, and still is.) It took me over two years to remove his work phone number from my cell phone. I needed it there to pretend that I could still call him at work and hear him pick up and say, “This is Mike.” I still find it almost physically painful to be at my dad’s church because I still expect to see him there, but his memorial plaque there does help a little. My brother still can’t drive past our dad’s church without flinching, over two years later.

    Father’s Day stings every year. When I see the Father’s Day TV commercials, I still want to yell, “Not everyone has a dad! I’d buy him X item if I could, but I can’t, so shut up!”

    One useful piece of advice that people gave to me is “Go easy on yourself.” You can only process such an enormous loss in pieces–or at least that’s what I experienced.

    About your brother and the “same hole in the heart” thing–that’s it exactly. You and your brother knew your dad in the same particular way. You two are like your own private country (to paraphrase a saying that I heard somewhere).

    Grieving puts you into your own world for a while. The world continues on around you, but inside yourself, you feel like someone has lobbed a grenade into your psyche.

    I’m so sorry that you have to go through this. Rough doesn’t even begin to describe it.

  5. I have a lot of dead people in my cell phone, email addresses and chat things. I can’t get rid of them either. In time, when you scroll thru your contacts and run across your dad’s name, you will smile. I do that whenever I see Lee’s name pop up.

  6. Aw, zoot, I… can’t say I know exactly how you feel, but I know very closely to how you feel. My last remaining grandparent died last December, and it was months before I felt normal again. I just felt like I’d never be able to be happy again. But… one day it clicked. Yes, I miss him still. Yes, I cry thinking about him still. But I know it’s OK. He’s in a better place now.

    Getting your final closure with your dad was probably one of the bset things you could do for yourself. My uncle, who died about 6 months after my grandfather, went into the hospital the day after my grandfathers funeral. I didn’t see him after he went into the hospital. I couldn’t even bring myself to talk to him on the phone, because I was so upset about his impending death. And it hurts me so much to know I couldn’t do it. I started tearing up in a meeting the other day because it finally hit me, almost a year later, that he’s gone. I just wish I would have had the closure. I wasn’t even allowed to go to the funeral.

    My thoughts are with you, and your family. But especially with you and your brother. <3

  7. You wrote exactly what I haven’t been able to for 3 years. I resented everyone and anyone who still had their Mother. I ended a relationship over it. I resented his Mother, who was 88 was still alive and my Mom was only 69 died. My Mom died 3/31/06. I watched her wheeled out of the house and I cannot tell you how I felt. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have accepted it. The whole in my heart was so large and I felt so empty. I couldn’t talk to my siblings, they were too busy suing me for her estate. (within 4 days of her death). I am glad you have your brother. I hope your heart heals. Often I see my Mom in the back of my car riding giving me a look.

    It doesn’t get better it just doesn’t get worse!

  8. When I was 12, my maternal grandfather passed away. It was the first person close to me that have ever died. My grandmother was put on medicine for a nervous breakdown and we were all a wreck. It was entirely unexpected, he had just retired 17 days before. I can remember being so emotionally overwhelmed at the viewing (or receiving of friends) but I wanted to go up and say goodbye and I love you to him. I can remember leaning in to kiss him and touched his hand in the process. It was so cold and unexpected to me that I couldn’t kiss him. It was so hard for me to see my grandfather but for him not to be there. Ever since then when someone close to me has passed, I am unable to walk up to the casket. I always want to out of respect, but emotionally I can’t.

  9. This all sounds so familiar to me. After my mom died, I kept calling her cell phone and listening to her voice on the voicemail. Then eventually I had her cell phone service cancelled and I haven’t heard her voice since — except in my mind, of course, which is where she lives now.

    Hugs to you and your brother. My thoughts are with you.

  10. Crap! Now you’re going to make ME cry! I never saw my dad after he died, but I was only 15, so I guess it was a good thing. Sometimes, though, I wish I had. Wish I’d had that last chance to say goodbye to him. I’m glad you got that chance.

  11. my mom has been gone 10 years and i STILL have her on my holiday card list. cant seem to delete her name . your constant grief and the pain your heart feels will lessen over time. the love will be there for always.

  12. My grandma died 3/17. I too can not delete her number from my phone – I still call the number sometimes just because.

    The thought of her house sitting empty (they lived there since 1951) makes me cry a river.

    She didn’t look like herself in the coffin, but I think that helped us to know that it wasn’t her that was there anymore and the pain and suffereing was gone.

  13. My dad’s cousin died in a horrible way in 2001 in a way that still haunts me. He is still in my contacts list.

    Every trip to DC, I tell myself I am going to drive by his house and that is why I keep the entry. But of course, I am lying to myself.

  14. I was at the funeral of a dear friend, well, exactly a week ago. I kept having to tell myself, “I am at Miss Connie’s funeral because she is gone.” I still have not been able to really conceptualize it. I can only imagine how much harder it would be if it were my dad.

    We talked about the tradition of having an open casket (she didn’t; and she was cremated) and how actually seeing the person can help some people. I’m glad that you were able to do that with your dad.

    I also remember the summer after I lost my boyfriend–the only people I wanted to be around were his parents. I felt like they were the only people who could really understand my pain.

    So, see! You’re not depressing. You’re just grieving. Just keep taking it day by day (or minute by minute if you need to). You will make it. The load will get lighter.

  15. It gets better. I lost my Mom in hospice too, about a year and a week ago. You never lose that hole in your heart, and after a while you don’t want to. It’s just that you can control it. I’m going to spread the rest of Mom’s ashes this weekend, and I plan to cry. This is in contrast to how things are the first few months after a parent dies, when you cry because you see their brand of toilet paper in the grocery.

  16. I was totally fine after my grandfather died, until I was standing up there saying something during the visitation (my mom wasn’t in town yet so I had to say it to her) My little cousins spent the entire time before the speaking up with my grandfather, kissing him and stroking him and I couldn’t do it. As soon as I was standing there, looking out at all those people and their distraught faces, I cried so hard.

    My house mate lost her dad right after that. There are moments while watching something that will make her cry. It is natural. Heck 20 years from now, it can still happen. Mourn as long as you need to ,don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. (a friend was asked at her husband’s funeral if she would get remarried)

  17. My father passed away many many years ago now. I still have his name in my email contacts, my chat programs etc. I still have email from him in my inbox. It reminds me that once upon a time he was here and I didn’t dream up any of those good memories.

  18. I’m so sorry. It does get less painful as time goes on, but part of you will always miss him.

    My mom died three years ago, and I still forget that fact. Whenever something happens with my kids, or I see an interesting article in the paper, or have a question about gardening, I think “I need to call Mom!” and then I’m struck, again, by her absence.

  19. I’m so sorry. I think the comment about taking it easy on yourself is wise.

    I have a coworker whose sister was killed violently Easter weekend. I want to offer comfort, but I don’t even know what to say to her. I hate being an emotional weenie.

  20. My mom is still in my email contacts, even though she didn’t remember how to send an email, let alone log into her computer. Her phone # is still speed dial 3 in my cell phone and always will be

  21. I still have my grandmother’s email address in my contacts, 3 years after her death. I don’t think I’ll ever take it out, just because that would feel like I’m finally saying she’s completely gone from my life. I’m glad to see, from your entry and from all of the comments, that I’m not alone in being unable to take that step.

    Hope you’re bearing up. It’ll get easier in the sense that the hard parts are much, much less frequent.

  22. Glad that you and your brother were able to visit! I am sure it helped both of you.

    I think blogging about it will help too. Expressing your grief instead of holding it all in.

  23. I still have my dads numbers in my cell phone and it’s been over a year… I still have him on my google chat list…. I still even have the key to his apartment (the one I was supposed to return).

    I don’t want to let go. If I can’t have him, I’m going to have his name and his keys.

  24. (((((Kim)))))

    I still carry around a key my grandmother gave me and it has been almost 25 years since she died.

  25. My Dad has been gone for 6 years (which is still hard for me to believe) and I still have him in my email contacts at work.

    His email address doesn’t even exist anymore but I just cannot delete his name from my contacts…..don’t know why but I just CAN’T. Don’t know if I ever will be able to.

  26. Thank you for this. One of my brothers died last fall after battling cancer for a year and one thing I’ve regretted is that I didn’t get to see him one last time. With the way his death came and how quickly things happened, he was already at the funeral home for cremation when I got there for the funeral. My sister-in-law chose to not have his remains at his memorial service, which I respect, but I’ve wished since that I had asked if I could see him before the cremation process started.

    I know he’s gone…but I’ve thought since then it would have really helped me process things to have had that chance to see his body and say goodbye.

    Thank you for what you wrote – you’ve said what I haven’t been able to find the words to say. I’m sorry for your loss.

  27. I know exactly how you feel, when I read this it felt like I could have written this 3 years ago when my dad died at 65. It’s awful to say but sometimes when I see really old men I think… it should have been him, my dad should still be here. Why does that man get to live to be so old, and not MY dad.

    It gets easier, but sometimes the silliest times, things, dreams make me think of my dad and I get super emotional.

    I took pictures of my dad in his casket… it might sound disturbing, but he looked so good, that I had to have pictures. They don’t make me sad, they make me feel… okay.

  28. I have no great insight on death or the grief process, but my mom always says that it’s extremely important for those who lost a loved one to see the body. Her dad died in a horrible car crash when she was in her early 20’s. It was so bad that the family couldn’t view the body. She’s confessed to me that she thinks she sees him, still. Sometimes, she believed, he was still alive, and just living somewhere else, all because she never got to see his body.

    Give yourself time. You can’t hurry through this.

  29. I’m just getting caught up on your posts and wanted to give you a virtual hug.

    Words are really just empty placeholders, but I just really want you to know that I am so, so, so sorry that you are grieving. I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish something could replace what you’ve lost.

    It’s going on 6 years since my mom was taken from me and the grief hasn’t ended. It sneaks up at the oddest times– some memories really make me laugh, others make me cry. Weeks later, I’ll have the exact opposite reaction to the same memories. It’s hard.

    That said, I wish I could repair the hole in your heart. And since I can’t, I just want to give you a hug.

  30. You are so blessed to have your brother. I lost my only sister unexpectedly and I often think how unbearable it will be to lose a parent and not have a sibling to talk to. You are right in saying only a brother/sister can truly understand the depth of your loss. Only they can share in the same memories or loss. I am sure your dad is thankful that the both of you have one another.

  31. I still have someone in my contacts list on my cellphone, too. He wasn’t even MY friend, really, just a friend of my then-boyfriend, now-husband. Almost all of his friends hated me, and he was almost the only one who was nice to me. When we got married, he circulated the room during the “ethnic” part of the wedding and told my parents and grandparents all about what was going on. He helped them cope with all that they were dealing with that night, not just “losing a daughter” but “my god what has my daughter gotten tangled up with?!!” and made them think that maybe, just maybe, having their family tangled up with “these people” wouldn’t be so bad afterall. He told them about their weird food and what all the rituals meant. He talked about his own acclimation to America and how he missed his parents so much that weeks after they visited him, he found himself picking their hairs off of pillows. My family still asks about him even though he passed away almost four years ago. I don’t know why, but I just can’t delete him from my cell phone contacts…

  32. hugs zoot

    my mom died three years ago, i still havent taken her cell phone number out of my phone. i just cant. i doesnt even work, my dad got rid of the number, but i like having it there, somehow the reminder that she was there and that it wasnt that long ago

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