That’s my response to most things these days – when everyone asks how I’m doing, when people ask how life is going, when other people invite me to join them in their plans.
“I’m okay.” “Things are okay.” “Sure… okay (followed by a heavy sigh).”
It’s all… okay.
Every day is different. I can’t tell you how I’m going to feel in 5 minutes, an hour, tomorrow or next week until we get to that point. I can’t promise that I won’t cry or forget anything, or that I’ll be keen to dress up and go out for a night of fun.
Because for the most part, I’m okay… until it all comes rushing back: when that vivid memory of me holding my Dad’s chilling hand, minutes after he took his last breath takes over my brain. I remember I can’t pick up the phone and hear my Dad’s reaction to the ridiculous life I sometimes live.
The reality of his death sinks in again, and in an instant – I’m barely okay at best.
Grief is a puzzling process.
There are no rules to grieving. People keep reminding me that there’s no right or wrong way to manage it or maneuver through it; you get to do it all on your own, as you please.
But that’s the blessing, and the curse. For me, I feel like I’m constantly searching for a stretch of feeling ‘normal’, but my mood is hardly consistent. For the last 3 weeks, I’ve perpetually made plans only to cancel them hours before they happen. The idea of socializing with old friends and new faces seems exciting in fleeting moments, but usually transitions into a sense of exhaustion as I contemplate the idea of spending time with people and making small talk. I’m stuck on a rollercoaster of ever-changing emotions, perpetually moving through moments of sadness, anger, misery, emptiness, heartbreak, and contentment.
To quote someone else: “Grief makes us crazy.”
I want to go on and live my life, while simultaneously sitting in a pool of my own tears. I want everyone to leave me alone, but I don’t want them to leave. It’s been 4 weeks, and yet I can’t tell whether it feels like just yesterday or an eternity since he passed away – the reality is so fresh and raw and it doesn’t make sense.
How is it possible that just a couple of months ago, my Dad was sitting on the phone with me complaining of being ‘just tired’? And then weeks later, he died of a furiously spreading cancer? It’s not fair, and I want to stomp my feet and demand answers… but nothing.
The only thing I really want is to pick up the phone and hear his voice again. I want to fly home and smell the stale scent of his familiar sweater, to hear him snoring in front of the TV, to see the spaces between his wispy white hair on his head. I want to listen to him chuckle at my silly remarks, to watch the smile light up on his face when I tell him something charming, and just hear him call me Miss Pennifer — one more time.
But I’m asking for the impossible, and so there’s no fix for my pain. I’m destined to suffer indefinitely – which isn’t an easy reality to accept.
My heart is both empty and heavy all at once. I’m systematically programmed to live in auto-pilot mode, coasting through the motions of a set routine most days. I put on a brave face and fake my way through my workout, my job, and even at the grocery store.
In between it all, there are good days. There are days when my laughter is genuine, the smile and the joy I feel are real. I can make it through some days, only crying for a few moments or only feeling sadness for a short span of time. But there’s also bad days, and awful days – where I can’t concentrate on anything beyond the fact that my Dad is no long a physical human being. I cry endlessly, I feel lifeless myself and comprehending anything past my sadness is unimaginable.
Death. It’s an inevitable part of life, and yet something we can never properly prepare for. Looking back, I don’t know that I could have ever readied myself for this pain… and so, I’m doing the best I can.
I sit at home and stare into the sky – wondering where he is and what he’d be doing right now if he was here. I wear his glasses and try to imagine the world through his eyes, sift through old emails from him, and think back to all my favourite quirks about who he was and how he inspired me to be me.
Life isn’t easy right now, but admittedly – it’s not awful aside from the significant loss I’m experiencing.
So uh, yeah. I guess you could say I’m okay.