After getting the news…
Go stand in the shower to cry, howl instead.
Wail to the heavens, his heavens, the heavens that he believes in enough for the both of you.
Squint your eyes at the crescent moon, the last moon Dad would ever know. Grapple with that for a minute.
Later, meticulously make note of the moon and its aspects: a waxing crescent moon in Gemini.
…Search for meaning. Always search for meaning.
Wonder aloud, tell him, “You were everything to me, Dad. And now you are everything.”
Light a candle, and then another candle, and then another candle. Burn sage and cedar wrapped in string. Sing the Maha Mantra over his dead/dying body. More wailing.
Then silence. Enough silence that someone says, “I think she’s in shock.”
Hold your hands in prayer. Pray for grace, pray for strength, but most of all, pray for his soul to be okay after falling off that ladder.
Notice his body swelling. His hands. His eyes. Listen when the doctors tell you it’s the machines that are keeping his body alive. Write all the dirty details in a notebook, as if that’s going to change anything. Prognosis: impossible.
Instruct them to keep keeping his body alive until all or most of his loved ones have come to see him, to say their goodbyes and their thank you’s.
Host them. Meet them in the waiting room. There are so many and they can only go in in twos.
Notice how his body is swelling. How at first he looked just like Dad, but now, not so much. Notice how he doesn’t open his eyes. Notice the artificial breath. Touch his hair.
Put your hands in prayer again.
Talk like Dad is in the room. Tell him, “So and so is here to see you, Dad.”
Surprise yourself by reciting the Lord’s Prayer verbatim during a too long silence.
After all the visitors, try to sleep next to Dad in a recliner that the hospital provided. Have trouble sleeping. Decline the offer for TV. Walk the halls of the hospital instead.
In the morning, instruct the doctor to unplug him. Play a favorite song. More wailing.
Let your grandpa hold you…something he’s never done before.
Weeks later, let your grandpa walk you down the isle at your wedding.
Ask the mortician to burn him with his tulsi mala beads on, wrapped around his wrist or placed around his neck.
Liken him to Christ in his obituary.
Don’t wash Dad’s laundry, because that means he’ll really be gone.
Place a portrait of him as a baby at your dining room table. His cherub-like smile greeting you every morning.
Place his adult portrait on your dresser, making eye contact every time you pass it.
Decide you don’t need Dad in your bedroom, on your dresser, looking over you. Place the portrait in the common room instead–a reminder to all who enter, “Father Gone But Not Forgotten.”
Search for rainbows. Stitch a quilt of silver linings.
Study Dad’s birth and death dates for meaning: 11/11/62 – 5/5/22
Find none because your mind is too blurry.
Place the jelly in the cupboard and the peanut butter in the fridge.
Finally wash Dad’s laundry, twice to get rid of the ICU smell. But refuse to put the clothes away. Then it’ll really, really mean that Dad’s gone.
Gone. Meditate on the origin of the word. It’s from the Old English “gan” meaning to depart or go away.
Dearly departed. Indeed.
Take a month to go pick up the cremains, which they present to you in a box inside a gift bag.
Tell yourself you’re going to buy little ceramic jars for the family. Then don’t.
Smoke too much pot. It was your and Dad’s “thing.” That and swimming or soaking.
Tell yourself you’re going to take yourself to the water every opportunity you get. Then don’t.
Tell yourself you’re going to send a card to the nurse staff at Sutter Coast Hospital. Then don’t.
Tell yourself you’re going to try not to be so hard on yourself for once. Then don’t.
Have breakfast with his baby picture everyday. Granola and that gummy smile.
Tap into that grief place through music. Play all the emotional ones. Unknown Legend. Eureka. Ripple.
Take a walk in the woods, it’s what he would have wanted.
5 thoughts on “How to Grieve a Father (Before He’s Even Gone)”
Thank you so much.
I was so moved by this. Both my parents have died and I recognize the topsy-turvy thinking of making a plan and then not following it.
Yes, Robbie would have wanted each of us to walk in the forest, and stop to enjoy the fiddlehead ferns.
Goddess bless you, Bonnie. Thank you for reading. I am so grateful the writing resonated with you!