I know this is straying a bit from my typical Deaf culture blogging, but this particular issue has been tugging on my heart for months and months now. I wanted to find a way to articulate it properly and delicately, and I wanted to put it somewhere intentional, but I think here will do just fine. I write best on here, anyways.
New Years Eve marked five whole months of being here without Dad. I almost feel like it should feel longer than that, because those five months have truly taken their toll on the four of us. It’s been a long journey. Being the oldest, I’ve had to step in so much more than I had initially realized I would have to – and while I do my best to step in where I can, it’s become quite tiresome, juggling my family life at home, and trying to keep up with my young adult life, as well. Dad was a massive, massive part of our family – he played so many roles in our home, it’s been almost impossible to try and fill in his shoes. There are still so many things that I don’t know how to do (like fix cars or file for taxes), but I’m doing my best. Finding my way through this (immense) sadness is never-ending. I’m very tired, yet still finding myself thankful for all that God continues to show me and bless me with, despite the mounting pain that I’ve come to realize, will never find a way out of my heart. So much of this excruciating pain, I face on my own, with just the quiet and steady promise of the Lord by my side. I have seen so much and I feel like I have aged at least ten years these past five months. I’m very much so a different girl than I was before, when I had both parents.
But what I’ve been finding myself hurting the most over lately, is the lack of acknowledgement that I get from the friends around me. (Side-note: Friends currently reading this – I obviously still love you all very very much, and am very thankful for your continual presence in my life. This is just my reaction to a very normal and expected part of grief and loss, and I hope this can help show you where I’m at.) Over these past months of post-Dad life, I’ve seen many of my friends in various social settings, and while it’s been great to see and connect with those I love, I’m getting real exhausted with the continual lack of acknowledgment for what I’m currently living though. People don’t ask me how I am doing with losing my Dad. They treat me as if nothing had ever happened, while I feel like I visibly walk around with half of my heart. And for lack of a better phrase, it really, really sucks.
For example, last week I was out with some friends of mine; one in particular was a face we hadn’t seen in a long while, so we had lots to catch up about. While I was eager to hear all that she had been up to, it became increasingly apparent that I was just there to listen. So I listened. Story after story after story, and I tried to keep the smile on my face as pleasant as I could. I only was able to bring up my past semester at school as a piggyback comment of someone else’s story, and lo and behold, not a single word was uttered about my Dad. This certainly is not the first time that my pain has been so blatantly ignored, but I’m getting to the point where I just don’t care to invest in these kind of surface level friendships anymore. What good is it to have friends who won’t meet you in the ugly and painful places, as well?
I understand that it’s hard to try to figure out if bringing up sad situations would make things harder or better for a person – I totally get that, and I’m sure I’ve not always handled those situations well in the past with other people. However, avoiding it all together is not the best solution. And I would hope my friends would know me well enough to know that I am very much so an open book (I seriously do not have a problem answering anything and everything someone would want to know about me.) If I ever do start to feel uncomfortable, I’ll let you know! I really think it’s best to risk feeling “uncomfortable” for a few seconds to check in on a certain area of someone’s life. I am a verbal processor, so it is immensely helpful for me to be able to talk things out, hear words of affirmation, and just be heard by someone.
There’s a scene from Grey’s Anatomy that I have probably watched a hundred times by now, that beautifully captures this alternate reality I’ve been living in lately. George’s line makes me cry every time. I’ll provide a transcript for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, below.
Cristina: There’s a club. The dead dad’s club, and you can’t be in it until you’re in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize, but until you feel that loss… My dad died when I was nine. George, I’m really sorry you had to join the club.
George: I, I don’t know how to exist in a world where my Dad doesn’t.
Cristina: Yeah. That really never changes.
So, yeah. I understand that not many people can understand my reality, not until they truly experience the loss of a parent themselves. There really is a Dead Dad’s Club and you really can’t be in it until you’re in it. And it’s the club that you really don’t ever want to wish upon someone else. I’m writing this post because I just wanted a way to let people know that the silence hurts, and that despite what may be a considerate and polite gesture on your end, really does not do much to help me feel understood in my pain, my confusion, and my journey. You may not yet fully understand how I feel, but someday you will. And you’ll want to be understood, too.
I’m getting faster at realizing who does genuinely care about what my life has looked like these past few months, and those who were only there to say “I’m sorry” and nothing more. I can honestly say I’ve felt so much more feeling these past five months than in my entire 22 years of existence. And it hurts. It hurts because these people mean something to me, but I can’t keep choosing to invest in them, if I feel ten times more empty when I’m around them. It is very much a two-way street, and perhaps the reason that I keep seeing this happen in my life is a sign that I need to find a better way to address this. That I should stop worrying about interrupting fun, upbeat reunions with friends, and just be willing to let people know that I want to talk about it. That it is cathartic for me to talk about what I’ve lost, the new responsibilities I have been taking on, and what I’m still scared about. This is a start. I also hope that this can offer help or understanding to those who may be walking similar paths to mine. I so get how you feel, and you are not alone in this. It’s a weird balance of finding what works best for you in reconstructing your life. Right now, I’m really just wanting more people to ask me how I am doing without my Dad. That’s all. I don’t need magic words to make the pain go away – I am not afraid of the pain. Just tell me that you want to hear about it from time to time.