On really bad days I always miss my father.
Since he died, that reality has never surprised me; the way moments of failure or depression rarely come without grief following close behind. It makes sense that when you feel alone or frustrated or worried, you’d profoundly feel the absence of someone you loved and was loved by. There’s something almost normal and right about it all.
But the thing I’ve realized as I’ve walked this road of grieving, is the sad irony that I often miss him even more on the really good days:
On the days when I have exciting news to share, and he is the one I rush to call—before remembering that I can’t.
On the days when my children do something funny or beautiful or amazing and I want to tell him the story.
On the days when his voice is the one I most want to hear say, “That’s great, I’m proud of you.”
This is quite possibly the worst thing about Grief: its utter rudeness, its complete disregard for your present bliss. It doesn’t care what goodness you are experiencing or how perfect the moment is. It shows up unannounced in the middle of your celebration and victory to remind you that you are still in the red; that no matter what great things you do or feel or receive, that loss remains and will remain.
This means that you are paradoxically the most vulnerable to deep despair when you have the greatest reason to be joyful. In the sweetest of moments, at the peak of jubilation you can often find yourself close to tears as you are sucker punched by how much you want the one you’ve lost to be present. You imagine what it would be to share this moment with them and you find yourself confused, as if your heart doesn’t know whether to soar or break—and it tries to do both simultaneously. The what is, is always assaulted by the what could have been.
Most of the time the joy of the day does win out, because you ultimately remember that your loved one really would be here if they could; that they’d be proud and happy, and so excited to get that call and hear that story and to tell you they were proud of you. They missed out on every moment you are grieving their absence in, and it likely wasn’t something they’d have chosen. And even though remembering that doesn’t fix everything, it is a place of solace. You know in the marrow of your soul that if they could, they’d be here cheering you on and celebrating alongside you and warmly embracing you.
My father lived for his family when he was here. Those calls and stories and updates were his joy too. Our good days were good days for him. This is how love works. I try to remember that, because that remembering is the closest thing to him actually being here. Recalling his love in the past does allow me to claim his love in the present, and it tempers the sadness.
Allow the memory of the one you’ve lost to be your companion in this day. May you who mourn be comforted: not only on the days when life is difficult and expected sorrow comes, but in those days when it is very, very good—and grief shows up unexpectedly.