Today is my 18th death day.
Not literally, I suppose. The demise that annually intrudes on my consciousness is not my own, at least not in a physical or encompassing sense. My life has continued on since July 17, 1996 and it has been a good life, filled with far more joy than grief. But it has now been eighteen years since my Dad left forever — through his own choice — and that loss has been one of the single-most shaping experiences of my life.
Eighteen years seems like an eternity in some ways – nearly half my life. Occasionally, when people learn about his death and express sympathy it is easy to brush their consolations aside. “It’s been so long…” But that dismissal rejects one of the fundamental realities of grief:
Grief grows with the life that bears it.
I don’t mean that grief grows in weight or importance. Generally time does offer healing, and the sharp intensity of pain diminishes over time. But growth does not always mean increase; it can also mean adaptation. As I have changed in the eighteen years since my Dad’s death, my grief has changed as well. It would have to – the grief of a confused nineteen year old would no longer fit inside my soul; it would not line up with the curves and shading of my more fully adult perspective. It also would invalidate the impact of eighteen years of coping, the way that learning to live despite the hole in my heart has shaped the way I do that living.
So today, on my 18th death day, I offer this reflection to my still-healing soul, and to any with whom it might resonate.
the age of maturation,
shift from child to adult.
The age society declare
It has taken eighteen years,
oh, subtle irony,
for me to finally see
it is OK to say
“I need you.”