Her question: what is mourning?

A friend of mine confessed to me recently that she didn't know what to say to me, because she's never lost a close friend or relative to death. I didn't tell her the real answer, because if you've never experienced it firsthand, you'll undoubtedly think the person telling you the answer is trying to deliberately mislead you for some strange reasons of their own.

So, let me give you the answer I didn't give her then: mourning is the most strange, bizarre, intermittent emotion and action you'll ever run into. It's both the stiffness in your backbone and the prickle in your eyes when you turn the channel to 'ER' and hear these actors-playing-doctors casually mention cancer like it's an everyday thing.It's the anger that boils inside of you when someone has the appalling stupidity to say, "Oh, I know this person beat their cancer because they Really Wanted To!" in front of you, when in fact you know perfectly well that the father you just lost had plans to go camping this summer. Had plans to take his red-headed grandson to the lake this summer, to fish and to read and to spend time together.

It's the feeling of taking emotions the size of a universe and folding them up, over and over, past the seven-fold limit on a piece of typing paper, until the whole mass collapses in on itself and forms an infinitely-massive ball that fits perfectly into the pit of your stomach.

It's getting mad as hell at the concept of a holiday like Easter, an entire holiday about the idea of resurrection, when the one person you'd give anything in the world to have with you on that day is can only be resurrected in your memories.

It's waiting a few weeks after the funeral to plant the tulips that your husband's mother gave you, knowing that every year that they bloom, you'll call them "Dad's tulips."

It's blowing your night and weekend minutes on meaningless, fluffy, silly calls to old friends because you need to hear about lives that aren't yours.

It's about getting up and putting your day together, sometimes just out of sheer spite, and the refusal to let the scope of your loss crush you.

It's about driving out one afternoon with the spouse you adore, looking at the dogwoods and forgiving them. After all, they're blooming because that's what they do in the spring, not because they're trying to spite you.

Eventually, after a lot of days of emptiness and sadness, those emotions fade to a more general sense of loss. Then one day, you see something new, something different, and you look up with a smile in your eyes and a twist in your heart and you say, "Dad would've loved that."

…and you realize that the end of the mourning comes not with a deliberate and conscious decision to pack your tears away, but with the realization that while you were sleeping, they have quietly gone away of their own accord.


Amy, I lost my father almost a year ago. He died of complications due to alcoholism, a death I consider preventable. I am well aware of what you're going through and only wish that I had the time to say goodbye the way that you did. You've been coping (publicly) with your loss as well as anyone could expect and your "answer" to your friend is spot on. Mouring a parent, especially one you were close to isn't a "get over it" type of thing. It requires delicacy and time. Hugs to you and if you ever want to talk to someone that's "been there", please feel free to e-mail me.