My father passed away this summer. Dealing with such loss is a roller coaster of emotions. Even so I have been sober more than half my life now and so this is not something that makes me think of drinking. In fact the turmoil and upheaval that someone close dying brings to me brings a large dose of gratitude that I am sober. Grieving is necessary because loss is a part of a normal, healthy life. People come and go and I usually have little say over when. By being sober I can feel and deal with loss.
When I was drinking suffering a loss was similar to some other negative experiences I went through. Dealing with humiliation and shame, usually after doing something bad while drunk, was of the same ilk. The emotional upset was akin to a dull reverberation that sounded inside of me for long periods of time. I would do my best to not let thoughts, memories, regrets and emotions about these things surface to see the light of day. That would just be too much. Instead they festered and were never really dealt with. Fortunately these experiences were not regular occurrences but it did seem bad things were happening to or around me at a steadily increasing rate as I progressed along the downward path of my alcoholic decline.
The other prism of this-sober-life/that-drunken-life that has come up for me when someone close dies is how I can now handle all the social stuff that revolves around these events. Part of this for my Dad was being at the hospital and having to ask the right questions in order to know what was happening. Making decisions, phone calls, talking to other love ones to ask what they need or want, and on and on. I even find comfort and know it helps my grieving process, and my own healing, to do things like being there (and in this case being involved) for the wake and funeral. Like hearing those funny stories about my Dad that people remembered.
Going to a funeral when I was drinking was something I avoided at all costs. I felt terror at having to be around anything like that. What is one supposed to do, or say or act like? I thought I should know and that someone would figure out I did not! Instead I have learned that one should just be there. To try to help others and to ask others for help if I need it. What I do now is to try to be kind and thoughtful and this helps me to say what ever is appropriate – or to not say anything at all.
It is so very strange that my Dad is gone. He definitely haunts me, showing up in my thoughts at so many junctures in my day. Thinking about calling him, but he is not there to call. Remembering conversations on the phone with him from the bus stop as a I stand there now. Playing with my son and remembering my Dad’s last lucid words to me were to ask about his grandson. His absence does seem unreal. As if it cannot be really be true.