Grief is a physical pain
Except ibuprofen won't stop it. Alcohol may ease it temporarily, or make it worse (especially if you wake up with a cranium cracker of a hangover the next morning). Trying to talk yourself out of it isn't a great idea. Grief will resurface at inopportune moments and bite back with a vengeance. Ignoring it will yield the same result.
The best thing to do when you've lost someone you love is to sit with the pain. Acknowledge it. Honor it. Process it. That's what I'm trying to do right now.
I'm grieving the loss of my father, who died unexpectedly. He was one of those people who, at eighty-seven-a half years old, deluded us into believing he might never die. I'd call him to make plans, and he'd have to check his calendar. He volunteered in two hospitals, went out regularly to see old movies at MOMA, and kept up with his friends. He didn't sit beside the phone waiting for me to call. The guy had a life.
When we did get together, which was fairly often, we went to shows and restaurants. He had opinions about everything. We laughed and laughed.
Last June, I met him in Chicago for a few days. He lived in Manhattan, but he flew to Chicago three or four times a year to meet up with the college friends who remain above ground. I'd been to Chicago on business, but it had been a goal of mine to see it with my father, who'd loved that city since he was a little boy. His mother was born and raised there.
An eery thing happens
Months before the trip, he asked me to pick out a hotel. I scrolled through the hundreds of listings online. For some reason, I settled on one: The Congress Plaza. When I called to tell him that I'd booked there, he asked why.
I couldn't say. I'd never heard of the place.
He said, "Well, that's interesting. Your grandmother, grandfather, aunt, and I stayed at The Congress after I graduated from Notre Dame."
He would come in from Indiana, where he was attending a reunion, and meet me at the hotel. He'd asked me to make a list of things I wanted to see, but I fell down on the job, so as I waited to board my flight at LaGuardia, I sought recommendations from Facebook friends. They provided excellent ideas.
A couple of guys I went to grammar school with pressed us to go to Buddy Guy's Legends, so we went. My father had never been there, but he loved music; it turned out he was up for anything. We arrived in time for one of the daytime shows.
The singer, whose name I knew and now don't remember, barreled off the stage and into the audience belting out tales of trial, tribulation, and triumph. Dad and I had the time of our lives -- until this firecracker stopped at a neighboring table demanding participation. Terrified she'd call on us next, Dad gave me the high sign. We split.
A special event
Over dinner that night, we planned a visit to the house where Dad's mother grew up. It would be the special event of our trip. Dad had been to Chicago six thousand times, but he'd never seen this house. He took a little piece of paper out of his pocket with the address on it. He liked mass transit and wanted to take the bus in the morning. He'd been told his mother's had once been a safe neighborhood, but if that had changed, he said, "We'll just stay on."
His cell phone rang (Dad's cell phone rarely rang, and never at dinner). He picked up. It was his college roommate, Tom, to whom he'd previously mentioned our intention to see my grandmother's house. Tom was calling to offer to drive us there. The next morning, he picked us up at the hotel, and off we went, at twenty miles per hour.
We found the house. It turned out the neighborhood had held up. Tom took pictures of us standing outside of it (neither of us had the temerity to ring the bell and ask for a tour). Dad pulled another address out of his pocket, this one for his Uncle Joe, who'd grown up across the street from my grandmother. We walked across the street and stood in front of that house, too, except I took the pictures this time, of Tom and Dad.
Here's a photo of Dad and me in front of my grandmother's house, taken several hours before I purchased an eyebrow pencil.
Another eery thing happens
Before bed, I posted the photos on Facebook. I wanted my cousins to see the pictures of the house where their grandfather grew up. I received a pm from my cousin, Eileen, who said something about the address. It was late, and I was tired. I thought to myself, "Yes, Eileen, that's the address for the house in the picture." I didn't understand what she didn't understand.
When I woke up, it occurred to me I was the one who'd misunderstood. I reread her message. She had not only mentioned the address but also the rest of the text from her grandfather's draft card, which she'd had in her hand when she pm'd me. She'd noted the date on it: June 5, 1917.
Dad and I had arrived at the house on June 5, 2018, one hundred and one years later to the day.
Back to Dad's departure from the planet
In a moment that held grief and beauty in equal measure, my siblings and I watched our father take his last breath. So did my aunt, his only sibling. Each one of us got to the hospital on time. We got to tell him we loved him; he heard us and understood us. The man didn't die alone in his apartment. He didn't languish with dementia in some nursing home.
What a blessing. What a gift!
That doesn't change the fact that losing him hurts, physically and emotionally. Grief is serpentine; one moment I'm feeling fine, and the next it's taking a bite out some deep, dark inner place in the recesses of my stomach.
Tapping helps, but sometimes I don't want to tap
Sometimes I just want to sit still.
In the beginning, I didn't want to tap. I didn't want to process the grief too quickly. It seemed disrespectful to try to "get over it."
But I've read enough spiritual writing to know we're not supposed to hold on too tightly to people we love. I believe in an afterlife. And I believe in happiness in that afterlife. I believe my father is reunited with my mother, his father, and mother, and all the friends and cousins he lost through the years.
I believe I will see him again.
Even so, grief takes its toll. I had a terrible pain in my shoulder that radiated into my heart. And I've been tired. The day after my father's funeral, I stayed in my pajamas and watched the Michael Cohen testimony in its entirety. I didn't tap that day.
But, last weekend, I started to tap a little. I tapped on recent and far-off memories of my father (he took me to my first Mets game the summer I was seven; just eight weeks ago, we saw Elaine May together in The Waverly Gallery and went for dinner at Hurley's). I tapped about ancillary mundane anxieties that have come up in the wake of his death. (Did I remember to pay the Citibank bill?!)
And when feelings come up, sometimes I tap on them. Sometimes I don't. Tapping may be a gentle process for moving though emotion, but sometimes I just want to feel what I'm feeling.
Writing helps, too. And, if you've read this far, thank you for indulging me.
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