I have been reluctant to talk about my father’s supposedly 63rd birthday (he passed away in December 2011) which fell on last March 28th because — unlike what people have been describing — it does not get easier and I do not get happier, just because I seem so.
I once posted this illustration by illustrator Mari Andrew last year on my Instagram accoun during my father’s birthday, accompanied by this caption:
My father’s supposed 62nd birthday is today. He passed away 6 years ago. When people mentioned I seemed to be happier now, it isn’t entirely accurate. The grief is still there. We the bereaved just learned to be able to carry it around better, mostly so that we are able to navigate our lives around others with as less disruption as possible (face it, breakdowns aren’t entirely fun!) This illustration by @bymariandrew posted today, how apropos, sums it all the best.
What changed my mind was this image of a boy, heart still heavy, reluctant but full of courage, making his way to the sea which took his father’s life.
According to the photographer Chris Killip, who took this photo in 1983 in the British coastal village of Skinningrove:
Simon’s father had drowned in an incident at sea. They had this ritual where they came out and took Simon out to sea so that he wouldn’t become fearful of it. It’s very formal. He’s dressed very formally. I was on the boat and nobody spoke.
Seeing this image, I think what makes me particularly uneasy with the idea of settling forever in this town is the fact that I am stuck in a place that reminded me of my father so often. Don’t get me wrong — most of the memories I had of him here were all good ones — but I have no idea how to explain that physically being here is somehow wearing me out, stunting my own growth — and I have no way to articulate this in a way that it will not hurt anyone. When my school friends casually commented that I am still here I wanted to tell (more like yell at) them, remaining here takes more courage than actually packing my bags and leave the country. I have done that, and to be honest it is not as scary as the state of plateau I feel I am experiencing now. I miss my father, but I don’t want to remain here.
This town is my sea.
- Nick Cave answers a fan’s question about grief after losing his son, “Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption.”
- Navigating the circle of grief.
- Don’t ask them to give you their hand. Instead, offer them your hand.