One of my favorite lines from fiction is “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Like Anne of Green Gables, I love Octobers. I love the soft light filtering through colorful leaves. The crisp evenings tinged with the smell of wood smoke. Curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket, a heavy mug of hot apple cider, and the smell of chili simmering on the stove.
I still love October, even though it brings the anniversary of the crushing blow of my dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Even though the soft afternoon sunlight reminds me of my grandpa’s room when I said my final goodbye to him. And the fall leaves take me back to a Vermont weekend my uncle was supposed to visit. He never got to use the plane ticket.
Since my dad, died I’ve had many friends tell me they couldn’t imagine losing a parent.
And I always tell them – don’t.
You Can’t Prepare for Grief
Don’t imagine losing someone you love. You can’t prepare. There is nothing you can do that will equip you for the vacuum of loss.
Until you lose someone you love deeply, you can’t anticipate how grief will ebb at times only to hit you full force when you realize that person isn’t there for another holiday, or can’t tell you what kind of bird is in your backyard.
How you’ll desperately try to recall the sound of their voice, only to hear it when you do something dumb you know they would have called you out for. (I often hear my dad’s voice when I do something wrong during home improvements.)
There is no way to anticipate how much you’ll feel like your child has been cheated of getting to know an incredible person, except through meager stories and flat photographs.
Don’t Borrow Trouble
Whenever I worried, my dad would tell me to “quit borrowing trouble.” I feel like anticipating grief, trying to prepare for grief, steeling your feelings is borrowing trouble. Instead of minimizing the pain you will feel when your loved one dies, you rob the joy you can still experience with that person.
Just like you can’t prepare for weight of grief, you can’t fully prepare for how you will keep on living. How bits and pieces of life will slowly get better. How you can miss someone so deeply you can’t breathe, and still be so incredibly thankful for having known them and loved by them.
Or how you’ll come to love your favorite season again. Scooping out the slimy seeds of a pumpkin. Crunching through the leaves. Cuddling under blankets with warm, sturdy little bodies, with marshmallows floating in mugs of hot cocoa.