I’ve never known how to be sad.
When my father died at the age of 42 (I was 17), I didn’t grieve. I was bereft, an integral part of my life was gone—but I practiced numbness.
Likewise when a dear friend of mine committed suicide—and when my grandfather passed away almost two years ago.
I filled the void with anything and everything. Perhaps most tragically, I wasn’t there for those around me who needed to grieve, and who needed me. I shut myself off, and ignored any emotion that came up.
I didn’t know that it was possible to allow sadness to wash over me and still stand upright. I didn’t know it was possible to show my gaping pain and embrace others who were going through their own processes in their own unique ways. I was, in more recent years, an active alcoholic—ever adept at shutting down, at feeling nothing.
I’m sober now, and lead a different life. Bit by bit, I have been processing the earlier losses of my life—as well as trying to make amends for not supporting others in their own grief, however they may have dealt with it.
Last night, my Nana, my father’s mother, passed away, after a battle with dementia and Parkinson’s. She was cared for incredibly by her daughter in her last years, passed away with her son and daughter with her, and she left this earth peacefully. Still, she is gone.
I am sad. My family is sad. I am relieved that the bewilderment of dementia is over.
My heart has tipped open in the last year and a half of sobriety. I feel again.
I can mourn my sweet Nana, and I can do my best to support my loved ones. I can remember with joy summers spent with Nana and the many things she taught me: the value of savouring a slower pace, the peace a walk on an empty beach brings to the soul, a love of the printed word, the incredible blessing of loving and being loved by animals. Gardening. Slow, delicious breakfasts and teas. Long talks. A love of all natural things.
We all bear grief in different ways. The important thing, I think, is that we know that our way is just fine, and that it’s okay to feel.
To let sadness bubble up and overcome us and wash away like a tide. To know that it will come and go. To know that everyone is feeling something different.
I know, today, that I can remember with delight my Nana’s life, and feel sad at the same time.
I’m so grateful I can feel sad today.
Author: Keeley Milne
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s own.