There is one question I have been asked more often than any other since my dad passed away last week. The phrasing is not always the same but it comes down to this:
How are you holding up?
My answer to that question has been exactly the same every time I have been asked.
I’m hanging in there.
If I can be honest, I don’t even really know what that means. I’m hanging in there? I guess to me it is the short hand version of I’m not doing great but I’m not doing terrible either. I guess I could have said that I’m coping well. Generally, I do think that I am coping with things pretty well. I’m not really depressed and don’t really have any mood swings. I’m obviously not happy but the relief that comes from knowing that my dad isn’t suffering anymore does offset that quite a bit.
Truthfully, I’m still a little num to the whole thing. It all feels so surreal like all of this has happened to someone else and I just happen to be there observing things at every turn. I think it would have hit me in a different way if say, my father and I had a weekly activity that we did together and it abruptly ended. If for example, we had gotten together for breakfast every Sunday and last Sunday was the first time we didn’t then I think I would have handled this week in a different way.
I know he’s gone but I don’t feel like the full weight of that reality has hit me just yet. I suspect that for me it will happen when certain dates come around like father’s day and the 4th of July. And it will hit me when things happen that I would want to talk to him about like the Presidential Election or the NBA finals or something.
It didn’t even really occur to me until last Sunday or early Monday that there were going to be things that I would soon experience for the first time without my dad and for the first time in a long time without Ginny. This Thanksgiving and Christmas I will be without both of them for the first time as Ginny made it to December 28 before she had to be put down. Those are going to be some tough days, I think.
I have been trying to go about the routine as best I can the past few days. I’ve even talked about traveling out of town for a longer period of time once things have settled down. This is something I was reluctant to do the last few months of dad’s life in case something happened while I was gone and I had difficulty getting back. Trying to resume normal daily activities has worked well in many ways but in one key way it really hasn’t worked at all.
I feel like I’m going through the motions of my life. I feel like I’m doing the things I usually do because someone has turned on my autopilot and it is in control. I’m doing what I usually do but don’t really feel invested in it. The numness that I feel in relation to dad’s passing seems to be hovering over everything else I do. There are moments when it passes and something resonates but then clouds pass over the sun again and everything goes gray.
What I’m saying is that things are complicated. I could be doing worse and I probably could be doing better. I am at this moment only taking things day by day. I’m not making any plans for anything more than a day or two in advance. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt incredibly lonely and isolated and moments where it has felt like everyone on earth was my close personal friend.
So I guess I say I’m hanging in there because that’s exactly what it feels like I’m doing. I know that there are a lot worse places I could be in (see my writing after Ginny died) right now because I’ve been in them before and they weren’t fun. This isn’t fun either but so far it hasn’t driven me crazy. I don’t believe that it will but I do have the sense that my days of intense grief are in my future not in my recent past. But being aware of this possibility can help me to prepare for it if that turns out to be the case. Hanging in there.