When I was 24, my Pop-Pop passed away. His passing was my first experience of loss. I was lucky, really, to have lived for 24 years without ever having to feel that emotion. After Pop’s funeral, I asked my dad if he was okay, and he said, “No. My father is dead, and I will never be the same.” Usually, my dad tended to be reserved with his feelings. So that answer left me feeling surprised that I had glimpsed such deep emotion within my father, touched that he would share his true feelings with me, and sad that he was experiencing the loss of his father – an emotion I could not ever imagine. But I never, truly, understood what he meant.
Today, I have been thinking of that moment. And 12 years later, I understand what my father was saying to me. There are some things that happen in our lives that change us. The moment in time when a child realizes that parents don’t actually know everything. Being faced, somehow, with a sense of your own mortality. Falling in love. Becoming a parent and gazing at your baby’s face for the first time. These moments change us, open our eyes wider and teach us lessons about ourselves. That is what my father was saying to me: that the loss of his own father had changed him forever.
I understand now, because I realize that I have been altered irrevocably by my own loss. I am not the same person I was 3 months ago. And maybe this has been my problem as I have been struggling to cope with my grief and anger. I have been trying to get past this emotional roadblock so that I could get back to feeling the way I did before. But I realize now that I will never be the person I was before my loss. Its as though I have lost some sort of innocence, and like Eve and her apple, I can never get it back.
I am unsure of this new me. Like a pair of new shoes that need to be worn in, I feel stiff and uncomfortable and am careful where I step. It’s true that I have had other life-altering events happen, but they seemed more subtle in comparison. Although I can’t help but think that I walked away from each of those things a better person… eventually. As I lie awake at night, listening to the quiet of my house, the soft breathing of my husband next to me, I wonder if anyone ever truly recovers from the loss of a loved one, or if it lives within us forever as we move through our lives. The people you see every day – strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – may be walking around carrying something heavy and deep inside of them, but they can still laugh and live and love. All I know for sure is that my eyes have been opened a little wider, and the familiar road I have been traveling has a new landscape. I will never be the same, and life starts new from here.