This week, it will have been four years since my dad died.
And the one thing I know for sure is that time has not healed my wounds. In fact, it’s rubbed salt into the chasm of my grief.
Long after the flowers have died, the casseroles have been eaten, and the cards packed into a box, the pain and the hurt of losing a loved one lingers.
Long after the mourners have hung up their funeral outfits until the next time, the pain of losing a loved one lingers.
Long after people think you should be “over” the loss, the pain lingers.
Sometimes it’s a stabbing pain right in the heart. Sometimes it’s a dull ache. Sometimes it comes as a giant tsunami crashing against your very being.
Over the past four years, I’ve had to find ways to swim out of the swamp of grief.
And I’ve come up with a list of things that might help you, too:
1. It’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be sad, to sit in your grief, to cry and remember. It’s okay to acknowledge the fact that you’re sad and on occasion succumb to the overwhelming sense of sadness you feel.
But as the saying goes, don’t unpack and live there.
Sometimes you need to take some time for yourself to release the water in your metaphorical bucket of grief. Just don’t unpack and live there.
2. Speak their name.
Speak their name, tell the stories, the jokes, and the memories that mean so much to you. Talk about your loved one with your loved ones, with friends. Talk about them early and often.
Sometimes people write in sympathy cards that our loved ones never die, they live on in the hearts of those who love them and, as twee as that sounds, it’s actually true. And if you know of someone who is grieving a loss, speak the name of their person.
3. Create traditions.
Obviously, we remember the important things—birth, death, that time they brought home a pet rabbit—but it can be nice to create new ways to remember your person. They don’t have to be grand gestures; it can be as simple as taking the time to enjoy their favourite drink, lighting a candle at the dinner table even if it’s not a special occasion, visiting a favourite holiday spot, or walking their favourite track.
4. Start a journal.
Sometimes I talk to my dad, tell him about what I’m up to, ask his advice. But another thing that is helpful is to create a journal. Find a great notebook and write letters to your person, ask advice, remember the good times, thank them for the lessons, write about your regrets, your hopes and dreams. Anything. Everything.
Of course, if things are really hard and not getting any better, consider seeing a professional.
And perhaps the best thing to do is…live. We never know when our time is up and for those of us left behind, live, chase your dreams, make your loved one proud.
I know that parts of this are verging on cliché—but you know what, clichés became a cliché for a reason. They’re true.
And four years on, I’m crawling from the void.