The Tao of Mourning
Posted on November 30, 2015
My husband tells me I can be a very foolish gweilo sometimes. Frequently. Almost all of the time, really. I suspect I share a viewpoint with my recently deceased friend, Roger Margason (aka Dorien Grey), that life ought to be one way, though it frequently decides to do as it damn well pleases and without our consent. In this particular case, I assumed any mourning I would be going through for my father would have run its course two weeks after his passing. That was a week ago. And it ain’t gone.
Several folks have been checking up on me and for that I am extremely grateful. It’s a warm feeling to know someone cares enough to ask, and especially warm because when asked how I’m doing, I describe the feeling as a knife made of ice stuck in me that refuses to melt so that the wound can close and start to heal. I’ve lost four people in my life in the last three years and, quite frankly, I’m starting to resent it. I don’t like the war wounds. I don’t like them at all.
A friend from Hong Kong informed me last week that the Chinese believe if you write a letter to someone deceased, then burn it, it’s delivered to the afterlife. My first thought is it was probably invented to help people through the mourning process by giving them hope. But then there’s a part of me that likes the idea of hope, and wonders if I believe hard enough, maybe it could be true.
There are three letters I’d like to write. The first would be to my mentor, Milt Ford, who passed last year, then Roger/Dorien, and then my father. Honestly, my letter to Milt would probably be the longest. I’d update him on where he used to work, the stories I’ve published (he was extraordinary when it came to discussing literature), and tell him about dad. With Roger, it’s just a quick check-in, and expressing of hopes. Roger let it be known exactly what his Heaven would be like without actually mentioning Heaven since he didn’t believe in an afterlife.
As for Dad, I think it would be reassuring him that we’re okay, that I know what my faults were where caring for him was concerned, and that he won’t be forgotten. One of the things people have told me is to avoid the trap of thinking “I should have done this” or “I should have been so much more (fill in the blank).” They’re right. It’s a slippery slope. Sure, I wish I hadn’t gotten angry with Dad’s behavior and there are things I said I didn’t mean. Mom reminded me that Dad regretted certain things during my upbringing he wishes he could take back. We all have guilt. We all wish we could take things back.
Dad wasn’t in pain when he passed. He was home, he wasn’t alone, and he knew he was loved. I saw several similarities between the ending of his existence here and my father-in-law’s passing. There were recognizable elements going on as they transitioned, and I think that’s why I didn’t feel bad about it. I knew Dad was going somewhere else and his physical body was holding him back. He was ready to let go and he did. I don’t regret that. I especially don’t regret there was still the tiniest part of his mind that was still there when he went.
So, no. No guilt. But, despite not having guilt or at least guilt I’m aware of, I continue to sleep poorly, have the tiniest of appetites (I may eat two meals a day if I’m lucky), it’s a strain to be in any social environment, and I’ve had zero desire to write anything more than a blog post. That’s part of mourning and I hope it eases in time. For now, I can live with consistently proving myself a silly gweilo. It amuses my husband and that right there is worth its price in gold.
Have any of you ever dealt with issues mourning? What helped you through?
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
13 Responses to “The Tao of Mourning”
Eddie Lam says:
November 30, 2015 at 8:30 am
When we all get older, more people will start leaving us. It’s sad, but it is life. Before you know it, it will be our turn. It does take time to heal, it does hurt time to time. Some day better and some day not. But all the people who passed will be remembered.
Perhaps a positive way to think is how to enjoy the moment that you have right now. Try to freeze the moment you have with your friends, with your love one. Instead of having the guilt after they pass, you can tell yourself at least you have a wonderful moment/memory with them.
December 1, 2015 at 7:51 pm
Always wise with his words, little brother is!
Patricia M Hebel says:
November 30, 2015 at 11:20 am
I, too have been through the rough mourning. I eat very little. I have gone down 5 sizes. I have trouble sleeping, thinking, etc. I guess time has helped me somewhat. Now I can experience a memory and smile instead of cry.
November 30, 2015 at 11:29 am
We should be neighbors. lol Oh, how we would commiserate.
JP Adkins says:
November 30, 2015 at 11:20 am
Funny, one of the things that truly helped me is Falling Awake. It also helps thay it is close to the ideas I already had.
There are no rules for mourning but if I may make a suggestion, don’t forget to live. Take this time to do some things outside the house that you have wanted to do.
You are loved!
November 30, 2015 at 11:31 am
I realized, where Falling Awake is concerned, that there is an entire second part of that world I didn’t write about or address. When people come back, there is more to it than simply checking in or going through customs, then emerging back into the terminal. What about when one recalls everything that came prior? What about when they have a question about relatives who are still here? Lots of what ifs that I will eventually need to address or expand on.
JP Adkins says:
November 30, 2015 at 10:07 pm
I can’t wait to find out about that. I have a few ideas of how I filled in the gap.
Jane Smith says:
November 30, 2015 at 11:48 am
My grandfather passed away christmas day when i was quite young (about 7 or 8) i was Bampa’s girl and i still talk to him when im on my own and tell him all about whats going on in my life.
There is nothing wrong with hope or any way to death with greaving. Everyone deals with in in their own way, just remember you are not alone.
Katherine Trick says:
November 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm
I’ve lost a brother, two aunts and two uncles I was very close to and I’ve lost my dearest friend, who was, for all intents and purposes, a brother, also. The only thing I can do is keep living my life, because that is what they would have expected of me. I try to do things that brought smiles to their faces as often as I can and remember them as often as I can. I have little conversations in my head with my dearest friend every once in a while, even to this day. We all mourn in different ways and there is no definitive timeline for grieving. We are all different.
I like the idea of writing a letter to those we’ve lost and burning it , so that the smoke carries our sentiments to them. It gives us hope, and hope is always a great healer.
I thought of you and your mom over this holiday weekend and about how hard it must have been without dad there to share it with. I sent caring thoughts and energy out into the universe for you both. I’m hoping it helped in some small way.
Patricia Logan says:
November 30, 2015 at 2:04 pm
I’ve lost both parents in the last six years and to be honest, my mom was easier for me to accept than my father because she’d been suffering in this life. When it finally happened, I greeted it with some relief and concentrated on my father’s grief and his loss. They’d been married 57 years and he didn’t let it go until the day he died. I still miss her and fortunately my children knew her well and often tell me that they hear her in the things I say. That gives me comfort especially when I can remind all of us with her wisdom
And recipes. My dad and I were extremely close and he was gone from a
Stroke in a matter of minutes which I’m sure he was happy about. He didn’t want to linger, though anyone who knew him, understood he still had a twenty year plan, even at 86. That said, I cried a lot when mom died. I’d be going about my day when all of a sudden I’d start bawling out of nowhere. With dad, I cried very little because I’m his life, he was always filled with laughter and always cracking jokes. I hope I can leave that legacy for my kids. I want them to laugh when they think of me and I also want to leave them with the gentleness my mom always had. She was classy and kind to the very end. They say grief is very personal so however you deal with it, is the right way. There are no wrong ways. ❤️
Sue Brown says:
November 30, 2015 at 3:19 pm
I lost my parents when I was young. The bottom fell out of my world when Mum died and it took a long time (years) and the support of many friends to get me back on an even keel.
My sister died last year. Her deterioration was drawn out. We lived at opposite ends of the country and the hardest moment for me was the day I realised I’d never have another conversation with her because the cancer had turned her brain to mush. It was almost harder than her death.
I didn’t think I was grieving her passing until I signed onto Whatsapp and saw her name and status as ‘available’. I cried long and ugly after that.
November 30, 2015 at 9:53 pm
Good to see this post. The feelings come in waves. Memories and dreams like clouds will sometimes bring on a storm. Those are the painful memories or the frustration of not having them there. Other memories are like the moon, cycles of happy times, bringing soft tears of want and love. It slowly fades, only to return when you here a song or see a picture, a movie quote or just someone saying a phrase or making a gesture that seem familiar to your past friend or family member. For me, the storms rage, the moon waxes and wanes and the rain falls gently. Always remembering them all. 🙂 Hugs to you my friend.
December 1, 2015 at 8:00 pm
My dad has been gone for over 11 years now. Sometimes I don’t even know if I went through a mourning process or not. Not that I didn’t deal with it at all but it was what it was, he was now gone and life had to move forward. I now had my mom to take care of for a while, while she figured out her own way without her husband by her side. We had a great relationship thankfully and had no regrets.
Life has never been the same since he left and I think of him, if not everyday, numerous times during the week for sure. There have been so many great moments that he was supposed to be here to experience with us, but alas, that could not happen. Eddie’s words are indeed, wise!
Thanks for sharing!