"The pain lay most acutely there. I missed him, and nothing could express it nor relieve it"Ana Ovey

There are periods in which we feel loss more acutely. During the months of December to February this year, I experienced painfully renewed waves of grief. With grief, time does not pass linearly, but circularly, and as winter arrived I and all the members of my family were aware that it would be a difficult season. And yet I wasn’t aware that it would, at times, undo months’ worth of healing and renewal. December held my dad’s birthday, the anniversary of my parent’s wedding, and Christmas.

My dad’s birthday returned memories of the last one we had celebrated with him, little knowing its significance – which brought a sea of regret alongside the bittersweet tang of honestly precious, painfully happy memories. A photo of my dad smiling happily, drinking coffee and looking out across one of his favourite places in England, Southend Pier, on a freezing cold and bracing day. Another of the fish and chips we ate in the evening. Another of the sunset and how pretty he’d thought it was. A tide of memories of all the ridiculous, cold and blustery days he’d dragged us down from London to visit the pier, the hot chocolates we’d bought, how joyous he was that my mum and I had indulged him in visiting the pier for his birthday that year. Sometimes, it’s hardest remembering the happiest times.

“I missed him and his investment in his family”

My parent’s wedding anniversary was, naturally, most horrible for my mum. There is little that can cover up the pain of all that the anniversary represented, and no amount of flowers, cards, kind words or hugs can help that, even if they act as evidence of support and love. Red flowers gifted to her by a friend reminded her of the flowers they had at her wedding, and she was touched by their aptness – but the loss was still there, even if the flowers were a beautiful and moving gift. The necklace I gave her reminded her in shape and style of another dad once gifted her; when she wears them, she wears them together.

Christmas was lonely and sharp with displacement. We were in a new home, without a beloved father sitting in his usual chair, joking about and guessing perfectly the presents from various family members before we opened them. We were well looked after, but I went to my room and tried to sleep for most of the day. I missed him and his investment in his family, I was reminded of all the things we had bonded over in all my presents and all our activities – films, music, books and poetry, even food. I wanted to spend time with him and knew that I couldn’t. The pain lay most acutely there. I missed him, and nothing could express it nor relieve it.

“Something had crawled up inside of me and sat at the top of my chest”

New Year’s Day marked one year since I saw my dad. On the first day of 2017, I got on a plane to Australia, expecting to see my dad in a matter of months. Instead, I got a call a handful of days later from my brothers, and then mother, in tears. I still remember me and my dad’s last words to each other. I wasn’t excited for the New Year—why should I be? Among the most poignant parts of 2017 were those of a hazy, miserable, confusing nightmare. I couldn’t fill my conception of 2018 with any ideas of hope, because I was so drowned by the thoughts of words I should’ve said to my parents before I got on the plane.

I couldn’t cry, for hours, on the anniversary of his death. I wanted to, but something had crawled up inside of me and sat at the top of my chest. Again, we were well looked after, and distracted, and made to know that we were loved by dear friends – but the loss was still there. It was hard to know the right thing to say to my mum and brother. It was hard, and grief is.


Mountain View

People flock to grief, and it can be ugly

My birthday, almost exactly a month after my dad’s death, had been miserable last year. I was terrible it would be so, again. And certainly there were painful and isolated moments. But I was surrounded by the dear and tender love of friends genuinely invested and understanding. I was conscious of what to expect, how silly and useless celebrating a birthday would seem when I was so distracted by the person I wasn’t, I could never, celebrate it with. I was sent endearing messages and given hugs a thousand times, I spent the evening and early hours talking with new friends who are wonderfully genuine and invested, and I was distracted totally by my love for them, by how blessed I knew myself to be to have them.

Anniversaries, birthdays, special occasions like Christmas, are lenses – they magnify and heighten and colour every aspect of internal and external landscapes. With every joy they sharpen and bring into clearer and more succinct vision, they will bring with overbearing clarity, also, every sadness. And loss can, and will, mute bliss

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