About a week after the funeral, I lit a Caring Candle here at the Caring.com website in tribute to Dad. It felt good to see that little flame and know it would burn for him forever – at least, forever in my heart.
I'm no stranger to grief, sadly. In the past five years, Lee and I have lost six family members, including both of his parents, our grandson, Lee's only surviving brother, my dad, and Lee's uncle. I was very close to Lee's parents and cried a lot for weeks after they died. And that's what has me concerned.
I haven't cried very much since Dad died.
Granted, I've been extremely busy, focused on packing up Mom and getting her moved. But even in those quiet moments at home, in the evening, when I think of Dad my eyes don't well up. I feel more...numb, I guess. I'm not even sure how to describe what I'm feeling. As one anonymous caregiver so aptly posted in the comments section of my last blog post: "I don't know if I am grieving or if I am exhausted."
My friend Mitzi tells me I've been grieving Dad since the moment he came to live with us, and that's why I'm not falling apart now that he's gone. I think there's some truth to that, but I also think there's more to it. It's not just that I'm not falling apart; part of me is actually happy Dad is gone.
That sounds like such a cold thing to say.
I mean, the truth is I'm glad to have my privacy back. I'm happy to be rid of the stress that came from wondering if each day would be the day Dad would have some awful accident, like falling and breaking his hip. I'm relieved to again live in peace and quiet without having to constantly converse with someone. (Dad was a chatty, gregarious person.)
Yet even as I type that, my fingers turn still on the keyboard. I stare out the sliding glass door into the backyard, and my heart aches and tears fill my eyes. I miss Dad more than I can say.
And, to be honest, when I say I'm 'happy' Dad is gone, what I mean is that Dad suffered from tremendous physical and emotional pain throughout his final years, so I feel happy he's now at peace and that he had a relatively peaceful passing.
But still, shouldn't I miss him a whole lot more than I seem to? How is it that whole days can pass where I don't even think about him?
This grief I'm experiencing is very different from any other grief I've known. It's like riding a roller coaster. And I do think some of it's exhaustion. Some of it's numbness. Some of it's shock. The only thing I know for sure about grief is that it's unpredictable. But how do I know what's normal grieving behavior and what's not? Maybe it's too soon to ask that question.