It’s that time of year again, folks.
On September 20, it will be four years since my father passed away.
Last year, my grief was physical: I was so fatigued and sad, it had trouble keeping my eyes open during the day. Two years ago, it was a bit of sadness, but nothing like following year. And three years ago, it was all still kind of surreal, probably because I was so much in the throes of writing my memoir.
The grief looks different this year.
Physically, I feel fine. I am a bit tired, but that’s because I’ve been travelling a ton for my business, and my spouse has also been on the road a lot, and the time away from each other definitely takes a toll. Emotionally, I feel fine, too. My spouse has been quite stressed because of work, so I’m more concerned about being there for him than anything else. Mentally, I’m also fine. I’m ecstatic to use my brainpower to work with a new client and to keep building my business. And spiritually, I’m fine, as well. Doing a devotional and praying every morning has set my day off well for over a year now.
Given all of these states of “fine,” and the fact that I’ve been so busy, I thought maybe I wasn’t grieving still, that maybe this year was finally the year in which I was finally over it all.
And then I walked to CVS to buy sandwich bags and saw a man who, from a distance, looked exactly like my father, only he didn’t look like him at all up close, of course.
And at church on Sunday, one of the assistant pastors [who does look a bit like my dad usually] looked so much like him, I wanted to say something. “You look just like my father. Who’s dead.” Didn’t seem like the cheeriest of things to say to a pastor on a sunny Sunday, so I said nothing.
Grief has now morphed into seeing this person who is no longer living in almost every Black man I encounter. Which is just plain weird.
Something similar happened to me after my friend Jessica died: I found myself looking for her everywhere. I thought I found her in Prague—I wanted to scream her name so bad, but I literally bit my tongue to keep myself from frightening a Czech stranger. I missed Jessica really intensely, so much so that it hurt (it still does, but in a different way now); I can’t say the same of my father, so it’s even weirder to me that I keep seeing him everywhere.
I wonder if this is some sort of sign, as if my dad has a message for me. I’m not a believer in people communicating from the dead; while I believe in the afterlife, I believe that’s kind of it—you are where you are and that’s that. But what the hell do I know? All of life is one big mystery, so surely death and the afterlife are, too.
Frankly, I prefer this type of grief, this seeing my father where he isn’t, over the other ways I’ve experienced it. This has been a lot less intrusive—I’m not tempted to sleep all day, I’m not sad, and I’m not repressing anything. I feel neutral, like, even in my body; it feels the way it always feels.
Last year, I told my therapist that that’s what I wanted, to not feel anything around this time of year. This does feel close to being “over it all,” if I’ll ever be that. It feels like a wound that is almost completely sealed. It feels like having been healed.