Monday, June 20, 2022

My Life After Early Grief

I have a ton of schoolwork to do this week. Two papers are due on Sunday and one paper is due on Monday, and I have yet to start writing any of them. So I want to write a blog post real quick before the week escapes me.

What to write about, what to write about...

Well, I've got some feelings and unformed thoughts regarding grieving early in life.

My mom called me yesterday. She told me not to tell anyone that she called or what she called about, but she said that my dad has been feeling down in the dumps. I really did not appreciate that she told me something with the caveat that I wasn't to tell him she called me and I wasn't to tell anyone what she told me. I don't like feeling secretive. In fact, I hung up the phone and told my boyfriend, "I'm glad we don't keep secrets from each other. I don't like them."

Anyway, my mom asked me to call my dad for Father's Day. I said I already did, but he didn't answer so I left a message. She said he was really missing his dad (not hard to do--my Grandad was AWESOME), some recent life changes have been harder than anticipated, and that my dad was having a time period where he was really feeling his age.

She said, "When you get to be 70, you just start to think about how fast life went. You wonder what's left and what to do next."

(Um, I recognize that she told me not to tell anyone anything and here I am telling all of you...)

It made me think about people who are forced to grieve early in life. People like us, who wanted to raise children but didn't get to. People who lose a child. Young people who lose a parent. Young widows and young widowers. People living in countries with overt war. 

We don't get to go along, live our lives as planned, be busy with those plans, and then have a moment after all of it is said and done to think, "Wow, that went fast. What now?"

Instead, at least for me anyway, the initial years dragged on in agonizing pain as I grappled with "What now?" many, many decades before my peers will face this question.

I told my mom, "In some ways, I'm already prepared for that existential question at 70."

To her credit she said, "Yes, I guess so. You and [her younger sister whose 7-year-old daughter died] have already been through more than most of us have."

I see it a little bit in my boyfriend. His stepdaughter and his son are grown. His son only recently left the house last year at age 20. When you've been raising and providing for a child for over 20 years and they've only been out of the house for a year, it's still recent. My boyfriend is not quite sure what to do next. I think he's a little lost for the moment. I mean, he lost his entire structure basically overnight. "Now what," for sure.

In that way, I am fortunate. It came at an immeasurable cost. But, I am not going to have to manage empty nest syndrome. I am not going to retire (well, one, because I doubt I'll ever be able to afford to retire), but I am not going to retire and think, "What am I going to do now?" 

I've already wrestled with these thoughts. I've already died a spiritual and existential death and brought myself back to life.

Life IS short. (Not while you're grieving. While you're grieving, the days are torturously long.)

But now? Probably for the first time in my life, I want to live for a long, long time. There's so much I want to do. There are so many quilts I want to make. So many books I want to read. So many runs I want to ski. And, as I've recently learned, there is so much research I want to do. 

Life is short. There's so much I want to enjoy.


  1. Lovely. I agree, I think that when we have had to grieve (over something other than the expected deaths of parents at the end of their lives) we have also had to answer a lot of (our own) questions, we've had to recover and heal, and in doing that we've had to reflect and think about life. I saw it in my FIL - at the end of his working life, he didn't know who he was, or what he valued (because work was no longer there), or how to appreciate life. I feel like you now - life is short, we never know when it will be completely disrupted, and we need to make the most of it!

    Good luck for your papers! And enjoy every day.

    1. I'm so good at enjoying the little things every day. The little things ARE the big things. I'm grateful to be where I am (yes, physically/geographically, but I really mean mentally).

  2. Dear Phoenix, those are my thoughts exactly!
    I had an existential crisis at 40, when I had to accept our childless life. I also think I am well equipped whatever may the future bring.
    Exactly, life is short and there's so much I want to enjoy as well.
    For now... I am packing the bikes and swimming things to spend couple of days at the beautiful Adriatic seaside. The Adriatic is already warm enough for swimming!

    1. Going through it was awful. Well, awful doesn't even begin to describe it. But on the other side?... It's beautiful. It's exciting. It's... peaceful, happy, and content... Even amidst my personal losses and the awfulness of the world news, I have a sense of peace inside me.

      Enjoy your time at the Adriatic seaside!!!

  3. There is definitely something to be said about remaking your life... It does make other transitions seem not so scary. It sucks when you're going through it, but it definitely gives you perspective! I'm sorry your dad is going through a tough transition (and your mom was so weirdly secretive).

    1. Perspective is priceless. It has served me well since surviving infertility.

      I told my mom how uncomfortable I was with her telling me something I wasn't supposed to know. So, she told my dad that she told me. I'm glad. There's nothing to be secretive about or ashamed of.