How Loss Changes Over 30 Years...But Doesn't Go Away

My dad died four days before his 37th birthday, 28 years ago. Tomorrow he would have been 65.

I've spent almost 30 years wishing he was here, but each decade brought different reasons for that longing.

In my teens, I'd wish he was alive so he could see me perform in school activities, read something I wrote, see how well I did on projects, watch me graduate high school and, later, college. I longed to hear him say he was proud of me.

In my twenties, I wished he was alive to meet the man I was going to marry and to walk me down the aisle. Share that father-daughter dance that still makes me tear up at every wedding I attend. It was also when I started grieving something I hadn't in my younger years. The desire to know my father as an adult.

Relationships with parents change as we age and I hate that my dad was taken away from me before I could view him through adult eyes. I know he loved Bruce Springsteen, but what else? What were his beliefs on religion? Politics? What kind of stuff did he find funny? What were his pet peeves? And family history (his whole side of the family passed away by the time I was 17) there's so much I don't know. Family traditions and stories that I'll never hear. 

Now that I'm in my thirties, I wish my dad was still here so he could give me parenting advice. To tell me that I'm doing just fine. To tell me about his mistakes and what he learned. To see me as a mom--and I certainly wish I could have seen him as a grandpa. 

And, yes, there's still a part of me that wishes he was here to tell me he is proud of me. 

The intensity of loss also changes over time. What would stop me in my tracks as a teenager and consumed me in my early twenties is now like a wave. Sometimes grief washes over me and I feel all that sadness and longing, but then it ebbs and I pull myself out of it. 

So, yes, I suppose it "gets better with time" as people like to say*. But it is still there, and I don't suppose it will ever totally go away.

{*NOTE: Please don't ever say that to anyone. Because putting guidelines on how long someone should grieve isn't cool. It puts a lot of pressure on the person grieving. That person will have thoughts like:
"Is it ok to still be sad right now?"  and
"Should this still make me cry?"  or even
"I can't share my thoughts because people don't want to hear about it anymore."
As if feeling sad and angry and broken isn't hard enough, then add the pressure of "time's up!" and you can really mess up a person.}

Each year as this time approaches, I try not to dwell too much on his death and the loss of him. Instead I attempt to focus on his life and the memories I'm fortunate enough to have. But sometimes the loss needs to be acknowledged and embraced, which is what this year has been for me. Which is why, in honor of his birthday tomorrow, today I write for my dad.

I think, somewhere, he reads my words. Maybe not the words on paper, but definitely the words in my heart. 


xo Sara

{P.S. Last year I wrote about being older than my dad and the "weirdness" of that.}