Friday, June 05, 2009

How Does It Feel When Your Father Dies? (II)

You had known for some time
that your father would die.
All you had hoped for
Was a chance to say goodbye.
And you had that. Lucky you.

Then why is it so hard?
You go back to your familiar life
To friends and exams... but
You cannot get rid
Of that weight in your chest.
And you seem to have forgotten how to smile.

Were you strong?
Or so weak that it took all your strength
To live through this
Leaving you little for crying or sharing your grief.
You being yourself
Could not have dealt with it any other way. 

You sit to fill up an exam form.
It asks for 'Father's Name'.
You are numb and then you cry.
Do you write 'Late' before his name?
You wonder.

You knew your father was going to die.
You had lived away from him for some time.
You did not see eye to eye.
So why could you not forget
And be normal again?

But you were 'normal', some felt.
You were hurt when a friend asked
about celebrating your birthday
a week - a week! - after his death.

But another friend pointed out
You weren't showing your grief
How were others to know you were mourning?
It was your fault, she seemed to imply
That you were brave.
That you felt your grief was private.

You talk to your mother
Trying to comfort her.
No one seems to reach out to you
To realise you might need comfort
Might need to cry your heart out.

But other friends try to help
By not letting you be alone.
By trying to make you laugh.
By finding things for you to do.
You take an interest in life again
In presentations and classes.

But the grief doesn't go away.
You cry in solitude sometimes,
sometimes into a friendly shoulder - 
but rarely, for you have to be strong - 
till many months have passed.

More than a year later, you have nightmares
that leave you shaking
and make you afraid to sleep.
You find it difficult to celebrate your birthday
couched as the day is between the anniversaries
of your father's death and birth.

You talk to your mother
aching for her loneliness,
Feeling guilty that you aren't with her.
You help her make decisions:
Your father had always made them
Who would you turn to for advice now?

It takes a toll on you
The being strong for your mother's sake
And for yours. 
For who would support you if you broke down?
You wish later that you could have grieved properly then
It might have saved you 
Some of the many hours of anguish
Of solitary bitter tears
Of feeling all alone. 

You go with your mother, once
To perform the last ritual for him - 
To immerse his ashes in the 'holy waters'.
You brave the greed of the priests;
You hold his ashes and fragments of bone in your hand
Before consigning them to the river.
Your hand tingles for days afterwards.

How does it feel to not have a father?
Always, not quite whole, less than normal.
People ask, who do not know,
Why is your father not here?
Or what did he do at so-and-so?
And at first, each time the grief pinches anew.
And you struggle to answer, and to not  cry.

When the grief ebbs away, there's embarassment.
You don't have a father.
And you don't want the person to feel sorry for asking.
So you smile, and say it's okay.
And realise it is true.
It is okay now.
The wound has healed, though the scar remains
And hurts when you rub it.
You are not whole, but you are strong.

Part 1 here.


gitima said...

very moving...theres not much that i can say now...

dipali said...

This is heartbreaking, Unmana. I'm glad you wrote about it, (and so beautifully, may I add).
Just yesterday a friend called up and was so upset that so-called friends living in the same city don't go to attend funerals of their own batchmates, or condole with their families. It isn't easy to do, but it is necessary to acknowledge the passing of a dear one. It's three and a half years since my brother passed away- it took ages to feel more or less normal, and the vacuum still remains. The saddest thing of all is that my parents have had to deal with the loss of their only son.

Unmana said...

Gitima: Thank you.

Dipali: I wanted to write about it for a long time now, but it was too fresh in my mind. And now, I wanted to write before I forget - heartbreaking as it was, the experience helped make me what I am. I hadn't imagined at the time, that I would ever feel whole and happy again.

I'm sorry for your loss. Losing a parent, though tragic, is natural - losing a child seems so unfair.

May I offer a hug?

Gauri said...

Hugs Unmana. That's all I can manage to say for now.

dipali said...

Thanks, Unmana, and hugs to you too.
Such a loss somehow marks one in a way that is unimaginable to those fortunates still unmarked by loss.

dipali said...

A related blog post that I thought I'd share with you-

Anonymous said... have made me cry again..
thank you for such a lovely post!


Suki said...

I can't begin to tell you how much I'm identifying with this.

Shilpa said...

Oh my god it was touching. I cried reading this. Thanks for sharing the grief Unmana. I hope this made you feel a little better.
Hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written...

Unmana said...

Thanks for all the hugs and support.

I had been wary of writing this because it seemed way too personal. But it seemed right to record it in some way, and I hoped it might help others who have been through something similar.

Unmana said...

Dipali: Thanks for the link. I've already read that post, but someone else here might also like it.

dipali said...

Please collect an award from my blog.

Dr. Ally Critter said...

It just helps to write about it, but the hole in your heart will always be there

Cee Kay said...

Hugs Unmana. It brought tears to my eyes. Each and every word rings true for me too - even though the exact circumstances might be a little different.

Prashanti :) said...

This is heartrending unmana. I cant even tell you how much I felt these were my own feelings!
My father passed away after a prolonged illness when I was in class 7 and I am the only child of my parents and at that age, I did not even have a full grasp of the permanence of death. The reality hit hard only months later . All I made sure I did was keep my mother away from the prying questions of the relatives as to how much assets he had left behind and such insensitive stuff!


Ardra said...

Could hardly bear to read these words soaked and saturated with sadness...
Love, Hugs and Prayers

Sunita said...

Hugs Unmana

Its been 4 years since I lost my dad and there is probably not a single day I dont think about him, not a single time when we sisters dont talk about him when we meet. Its truly heartbreaking. He has just become that constant presence in spirit in our lives.

Unmana said...

Thank you all for the hugs and support.

Cee Kay: Your post finally urged me to write what I'd been putting off for so long.

Prashanti, Sunita: I'm sorry about your loss. Life does go on, but it is a terrifying thing to recover from... the death of someone close to you.

Kimberly Carolan said...

Yes ... that is totally my life! I was in school when my father died, and I have tried to help my mom ever since: Help her make decisions that my father and her would have made, gave her a place to live so that she wouldn't be homeless, and lived alone, it seems, for so long everyone thinking we're crazy. Maybe we are, but maybe everyone around us is completely inexperienced with the darker side of life.

Kim Carolan
President, Carolan Creative Enterprises, LLC

Site manager said...

That was so beautifully and eloquently written.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful. I am a 16 year old feminist (girl), and I just stumbled upon your site through google. I came across this poem, and was in awe. I lost my father 5 days after my 9th birthday to a hit and run, he was walking to his bus stop on his way to work, and I vehicle ran a red light, killed him, and didn't even slow down. It makes me sick to think about, and thinking about all the poems, articles, essays, books, storries that people have tried to comfort me with. This is one that has actually move me in an incredible way. Thank you for listening to my thoughts, keep up the beautiful writings.

Unmana said...

Alexandra: Thank you. I'm sorry for what you had to go through. And I'm glad my words help a little.

Do keep visiting.

kim lessandra said...

wow anmana this is is really beautiful

u know what i really feel the same father died a week before my birthday. i dont really know if my birthday is goanna be a celebration anymore. and everytime i try to fill up an exam form it always make me sad that they ask for your fathers name and wheather to put late before his name.
when people ask about my father i dont know if i should tell them and make them feel sorry.

Unmana said...

Kim: I'm sorry. I promise you, the pain lessens with time.

"When people ask about my father i dont know if i should tell them and make them feel sorry." I know, I used to feel that way too. I am still not sure what the right way is, to say it.

push said...

seems like you wrote my mind... i lost my father when i was in college...far away from the grief my family was going thru and unknown to evrything...i cdnt be wid him during his last hours,cdnt gv my hands to comfort him....
maybe i never saw him leaving me so far..that till today i dont belive he is not around...its still like a bad dream..which will be over.smday smway..i cdnt cry...and still put up strong face infront of my family...but i cried so much alone which nevr seems to suffice my grief...i miss u Dad..i hope your there with this hardest hours of mine..

Unmana said...

push: You know, at first I didn't cry because I wanted to be strong... I wouldn't change anything, but I realised that not crying, not pouring out my grief made me keep it in longer, made it more difficult...

All the best to you. I am sure you will get through this, that things will improve.

heron said...

I lost my father somewhere recently...I couldnt read all of your poem because I dont beleive it happened and I cant relate this poem to my father...I JUST WANT MY DAD BACK...Iam waiting for him till I die.
But it was both touching and scary to me(very sorry if offended)

Unmana said...

rohini: I'm so sorry. You sound very young: please do talk to someone about how you're feeling. An older relative or friend? I hope you're fine.