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May 13, 2021

A Tender Truth about Grief I Learned from my Father’s Death.

“Grief disguises herself as some hateful adversary we must recoil and ‘move on’ from, but grief is simply lingering love that no longer knows her way out of our hearts. So what else can we do but accept her presence, make her feel held and treat her with the same depth of compassion with which we’d treat love? After all, they are one and the same.”

~

I brace my heart for this week every year, but somehow still never enough for how hard it inevitably always is—the anniversary of my father’s death.

Maybe I will never be able to, but I have come to be at peace with that, because grief, as they say, is just unspent love:

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ~ Jamie Anderson

But love, to be lost, needs first to have wandered.

If our sandglasses ran bare and, like my father, our time suddenly announced, would our hearts look back and feel full for the lives we have led?

If the only true final measure of success was happiness, would we smile and say we succeeded?

All I know is I want to have felt love that has wandered.

Love whose smile lines have become wrinkled, love that has been met unconditionally, love that hurts this hard when it is finally left with no place to go, but to rest in the hollow of my chest.

Love only feels the stillness of loss if it has first travelled, and felt, and seen, and laughed, and been touched, and fought over, and forgiven, and adored, and been adored by, the person with whom it was shared.

And so, if at the end of our lives, love has no place to go, it is our job to give it every chance, whilst we can, to journey freely and express itself tirelessly, even when uncomfortable, even when vulnerable, even when our egos scream not to.

Even, and especially.

Because there will come a day when we no longer can and the only place our love will have to wander is the corridor of memories we have led it to create.

It is our job to make that corridor a beautiful place to stay.

Grief disguises herself as some hateful adversary we must recoil and “move on” from, but grief is simply lingering love that no longer knows her way out of our hearts.

So what else can we do but accept her presence, make her feel held, and treat her with the same depth of compassion with which we’d treat love?

After all, they are one and the same.

So yes, grief may be love with no place to go, but the place from which it came—the birthplace and the lifespan of that love—that is worth all the pain of loss, and it resides in a space in our hearts that is always accessible.

~

My father was always the one who loved to hear me play my piano. Whenever I would, he would cheekily clap from next door and we would laugh, or I would hear him turn down the TV to silently listen, or he would come up behind me after, graze my cheek with the back of his hand like he did, and say, “Oh Meggy estu cennagittu” (“Meggy that was lovely,” in Kannada, our mother tongue).

Piano gives me the space to release my unspent love, to feel his essence close, and when I’m playing, suddenly, again, I am reminded that he is a part of me always—still as much here as I believe him to be.

~

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