So over on twitter author Delilah Dawson has been tweeting about the imminent death of her father. It’s some heavy shit. And even though it’s been over twenty years since I lost my father (and he thankfully died within a day of my arrival back home) I watch some of those tweets and think, “yes, I’ve been there.”
Like talking to the person who is so wrapped up in their own life that they can’t even seem to comprehend that you’re grieving. That the loss of your parent feels like someone took a knife, sliced you open, reached inside and pulled out every vital organ you have and you’re just sitting there slowly bleeding out before them but all they care about is how the Starbucks fucked up their order this morning and gosh, isn’t life just shitty sometimes. I mean, their coffee isn’t perfect…can life get any worse? And the whole time you’re sitting there staring at them wondering how you were ever friends with this person.
I read her tweets and I flash back to my own loss. They resonate to me and even though I don’t know her I want to reach across that void and say, “I get it. I know where you are and you’re not as alone as you think you are.”
But I know that most of the people either don’t get it or don’t care. (“Dude, why’s she keeping going on like that. Give it a rest already.”) They’ve never been where she is and they have no frame of reference for it. Bad coffee order? Not the same as slow, agonizing death of a parent.
Stuck in traffic for three hours? Not the same as feeling completely alone while surrounded by “your loved ones.”
It’s good that most people can’t fathom that experience. But it’s hard, because grief isolates you.
Or maybe more particularly the experience of losing someone close to you sets you apart from those that haven’t experienced it in a way that no one can understand until they’ve gone through it themselves.
I remember reading that David & Goliath book by Malcom Gladwell and he mentioned something about how kids who lose a parent at a young age go on to be more successful or take risks or something like that.
All of his explanations for it were crap to me. Because my first thought was, “Of course they aren’t afraid to take risks or be different. They already feel completely isolated from their peers. They already know they’re different so why not take risks and do things no one else would?”
I tried to explain it to a friend recently as a sort of real-life version of leveling up in a video game. Suddenly you’re playing on a completely different emotional level from those around you.
The good news is that people with that kind of experience seem to be drawn to one another. I can’t count how many friends I’ve made and then later learned had lost a parent, too. Or a spouse. Someone who died outside the natural order of things or in a way that was painful to those who witnessed it.
So, grief is isolating. You go through that and you find certain people in your life just don’t fit anymore. But if you’re lucky, you’ll find stronger and better people to replace them with.
(And, not that I want to schill my book after a post like this, but if anyone out there is struggling with the loss of someone and just not getting through it, check out You Can Survive This. It was written to help those who need it based on twenty years of perspective.)