June 19, 2024

On Grief: “The Mother Grieves while the Queen Shirks her Duties.”

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Today was a hard day that came on the heels of another hard day—Father’s Day. It’s my first one without my father who passed away recently.

As I sit here with my emotional support can of corned beef hash, eating my sadness, I realize just how lonely these past four months have been. How isolated I’ve felt.

Nothing could make me feel whole or better, not even the newest episode of “House of the Dragon,” which, how could it possibly? (I swear, this mention has a purpose in this bit of writing.)

Above all, I feel so incredibly robbed by time and death that at times I feel angry.

Before I gobbled down this can of mystery meat, I was crying in bed reading old text messages from my father, reminded of how much I loved—love—him and how his life stopped so suddenly, mine along with it.

He was learning Spanish, I remembered as I read a text he wrote to me using a newly learned phrase—I still haven’t removed him from the Duolingo family plan. He once sent a text about how “the sisterhood is alive” after watching Marvel’s “Echo”—I feel guilt, because I never responded to that text.

He expressed his excitement over seeing how my partner and I refinished our bathroom—a task we finished shortly after his death. And then there were slews of encouragements, which he was always good at sending, and even now, there’s not enough of them to read through.

And those are just some of the things that pain me still. The things that won’t go on for him. The things he’ll never see again. The TV shows and football games we’ll never watch together again. The kung pao chicken I used to make him that he loved so much. His lovely laugh. The crippling pains of all the important life events he’ll miss.

My dad died having never finished the things he dreamed of accomplishing, and I’m reminded of that fact every single day. It remains the single thing that continues to carve a hollow space within me. It has become a source of torment for me as I struggle to find my own purpose right now.

And it bleeds into everything—my job, my friendships, everything. Some days, it feels impossible to function. Other days, I feel happiness and appreciation for life. And on even odder days, I feel all manners of joy and sadness simultaneously.

So. “House of the Dragon” season two aired on Father’s Day, as chance would have it, and my dad so loved the GOT (“Game of Thrones” franchise. Eager to watch, the beginning struck such a hard painful cord with me about how non-grieving (and even some grieving) people in the world approach grieving people.

Less than 10 minutes in, Daemon voices frustration to Princess Rhaenys over how long it’s taking Rhaenyra to grieve the loss of her son, which came in the wake of her daughter’s and father’s deaths.

Daemon says, “The mother grieves as the queen shirks her duties.”

The princess is quick to put him in his place, reminding him what it takes for people to mourn such losses, queens and princesses included, saying she lived in torment until she saw her daughter’s mortal remains.

Even then, Rhaenyra was expected to get over her grief in just 10 days before Daemon expected her to go to war with the world.

In a way, that’s how my life—and many others’ lives, probably—feel right now. Like there’s no time for us to be sad. Like we’re fighting to be understood for what we’ve lost. Like we’re fighting for anyone to care enough to make space for us, only coming to find that unless it’s happened to them, or it’s rocked their world on the same level, most won’t understand.

That episode of HOD taught me that most people create separation between the queen and mother—professional life and personal life—and it’s not realistic to do that in any way because they intertwine on so many levels.

How can a person’s whole physical absence not alter your everyday responsibilities?

There should be deeper compassion for the humans working their jobs or interacting with the world after they’ve lost someone.

Workplaces are especially lacking in a sense of compassion that seeks to understand and uplift employees in healthy ways that foster a space for grief while still supporting their growth and productivity. There should be fewer spaces giving the complementary “I’m sorry” before expecting you to get back to work like you’re unaffected by the loss of a whole person.

All I’ve learned so far is that so few stop for your grief. In fact, grief is inconvenient for most people, especially companies and employers.

I read that 57 percent of people in the United States are grieving someone they lost in the past three years. Fifty-seven percent and we still haven’t learned how to offer more grace and understanding to those in pain, no matter if it’s their personal or professional lives.

Fifty-seven percent and people are still afraid to say their names, afraid to sit with you in sadness, afraid to uphold their memory with you, afraid to give you time off, afraid to give you space to grieve unapologetically.

And when it comes to the workplace, 47 percent of people who experienced loss said it negatively affected their work ethic. You’d think businesses and companies would care more about supporting this area of struggle if they knew it cost $37.5 billion in annual productivity.

But they give you even less time to grieve than Rhaenyra—three days of bereavement and then a toxic positive “it’ll get better” or “this will be a growing experience” in hopes it’ll lift your spirits.

Thankfully, I got a little bit of extra bereavement time, but not much, considering this is the kind of grief that will last a lifetime, with the first few years being the worst.

But more than anything, I’m scared. Scared that my grief will cost me my job, my friends, my partner, my motivation to live life bravely. I’m scared of losing everything because my grief is too inconvenient for the world and I’m not allowed to sit in grief for too long.

So I push it all down to accommodate everyone feeling discomforted by my tears.

The first year is always the hardest. That’s the truth.

But so is the second.

And so is the third. Or so I hear.

These days, it feels like the pain will never go away. It feels like my DNA has changed.

My being has changed so much that I miss who I used to be before he died. I miss how I interacted with my friends, how carefree I was. How ambitious I was. How much more I laughed.

Now, I’m examining my life and how I want to live it. On the verge of abandoning my responsibilities to survive, just so I can lie down for a long while, because that’s the only thing that feels good most of the time.

The bottom line is, I miss my father.

I need to grieve him in the strange ways I need to, without feeling weighed down by people’s expectations of how fast I should get over it and move on.

I need to take a day off without fearing I’ll lose my job.

I need my bosses to understand that I’m trying so hard to keep my purpose alive long enough to make an impact, even on the days when I feel like I’m dying.

I need to be able to cry in front of people when I’m triggered and know that they’ll understand, even if they don’t have the right thing to say at that moment.

I need people to understand that I will find myself again, but that it might take time and the occasional shirking of duties while I eat cans of corn beef hash and relive conversations I once had with my dad.

I need to hold and nurture the grief until it’s a bit more manageable.

I need to miss my dad with my whole broken heart until each day of missing him hurts a little less.

I need to be the grieving mother a while before I can be the fierce queen again.

That’s all.


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