Many happy returns

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Recently, I changed my car. Now, everywhere I look, I see the same model and colour; there’s even one that parks two spaces away from me at work. I never noticed it before. Synchronicity? Coincidence? Or maybe there’s a part of my brain that just notices them more now that I own one? Over the past few days, I’ve stumbled across several articles about the experience of losing a parent where I’ve read about grief, gratitude, guilt and a plethora of other complex emotions.

Why is it that, even years after the event, adults who lost parents can still carry so much overwhelming emotion? Surely, as grown-ups we’re programmed to expect the loss of our parents? Surely that means our grief will not be as great as other griefs? Perhaps, but I don’t believe bereavement comes with a colour chart that tells you how intense the shade of your grief should be, though, for a
long time after my father died, I thought perhaps it did and that I’d got my hue wrong. Someone asked me whether I thought I’d have been more upset if my boyfriend (now my husband) rather than my dad had died, whilst six weeks after his death someone told me: ‘You’ll be over it by now.’ Yet another someone

Dad

Dad

declared what had happened would be “the making” of me.

Our parents made us, physically, emotionally and spiritually; that’s why, whatever their legacy in our lives, we cannot remain ambivalent when we remember them. For me, I am thankful without reserve for the inheritance of love, faith and resilience I’ve been gifted by my parents.

Just last week, I read in the book of Zechariah chapter 8: “The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept in early summer, midsummer, autumn and winter are now ended. They will become festivals of joy and celebration …” This weekend saw the anniversaries of both my parents’ birthdays. Rather than mourning, I have imagined the celebrations we would have held as my dad turned eighty; the secrets and surprises I and my siblings along with the spouses he never saw us marry, the grandchildren he never got to meet, would have planned. And right there in the middle of it all Mum, composing and orchestrating it all. For my parents, their birthdays reached the end of their returns, but for me, this anniversary is an opportunity for joy and celebration for all my parents were during their lives on this earth, for their hands in my life and for the rewards their faith brought them in their deaths. The happy returns are now for me to enjoy, along with all who loved, and lost, them.

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24 thoughts on “Many happy returns

  1. The death of anyone close to you is difficult and the sadness often seems to stay with you forever. I sat all night with my dad when he died. I have dreams at times that he is doing things with me. I know he’s dead, yet there he is seeming as real and as alive as ever in my dreams. It’s nice to see my dad again and do things with him again even though it’s only in my dreams.

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  2. I see you read Snakes in the Grass’ blog post too. 😊 I’m happy you can now remember your dad’s life and not its end. It took me qiuite a while after my parents’ respective deaths to reach the point where missing them didn’t consume me, but it finally came about–though still, I have my moments. Like I commented on Timothy’s above response, I get to see them in dreams…ordinary, everyday things going on. I wake up feeling happy, as if for at least for a little while, I had gone home.

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    • I did indeed read that post, amongst others that tripped me up along the way. Strange how that can happen.
      Like you, there are still those days when their loss is so overwhelming I can’t quite pick myself up again. But more than their loss, I feel their presence, in dreams, in artefacts (letters and the like) but mostly in the stories their lives wrote into mine.

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  3. What a nice looking man Julia. Only now, nearly 35 years after my Mother’s death, am I able to think of her without a stabbing loneliness in my heart. I was just talking to a woman this morning who is a patient and she lost her husband 13 years ago, still feels lost without him although she is taking care of herself. We never get over it, we just get used to it…..

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  4. Jan Vickers

    My father died suddenly at age 63, my mother died by a long slow death through dementia at age 90. Two very different journeys of grief. When my father died I was 17 and a teacher told me that grief was a gift from God and that it was good to have grief as a companion as I journeyed to peace. Such wisdom that helped me so much as grief turned to celebration and thankfulness. I am so grateful for all that my parents handed over to me as a solid foundation upon which I could make me own decisions and build a legacy to hand over to my sons. And so it continues…..the blessings being passed through a thousand generations!

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    • And dear Jan, what blessings and what a legacy you have drawn from your own journey with grief-to-joy; it’s not only the two wonderful young men you have raised who reap the wisdom and love and peace you have sown in their lives, it’s all who meet you. I will never forget that it was you who stood beside me, literally, within moments of hearing the news of my dad’s death. From the moment you took the phone from my hands you never stopped supporting me, even though your own grief was still far from old. Thank you, my friend.

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  5. “Our parents made us, physically, emotionally and spiritually; that’s why, whatever their legacy in our lives, we cannot remain ambivalent when we remember them.”

    Beautiful. You have every right to miss and grieve them for as long as you need or want to, Julia. But I’m so glad you chose to celebrate them this anniversary.
    I don’t feel qualified to say anything more.

    Xxxxx
    Diana

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  6. I’ve stayed away from my parents since I was 18, meeting them once a year or less. They figure in my dreams, too, though both are alive and well. I don’t know how I would feel if I lost them– but for now, I try to be there for them as much as I can, given how far we live from each other. Thankyou for sharing your feelings here.

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    • It doesn’t seem to matter how old we grow, whether they are with us still or not, for better or worse we are tied to our parents in ways that never stop molding us. It must be hard to be so far away physically from your parents, but must also make the times you are together even more precious.

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