I was 15 when my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly. None of us is ever prepared for this kind of loss, and I was no exception, but I was surprised by some of the strange experiences that came along with grief. Only much later did I understand that almost anything extraordinary is “normal” when it comes to grief. Here are a few weird things that happened to me:
Every time the phone rings, you’re sure it will be them
It takes the brain a long time to process the idea that someone who has been there since the moment of your birth is suddenly gone. Every time the phone rang or there was an unexpected knock at the door, my first thought was always, “Oh, it’s my dad.” My adrenaline would start flowing and it would take several seconds for my grief-addled brain to catch up and realize that it couldn’t possibly be him.
The experience was worsened when, on the day of my dad’s funeral, I answered the door to find him standing there. It took me a lot longer than a few seconds to realize that the man on the doorstep was my dad’s younger brother, who’d I never met in person and who happened to bear an uncanny resemblance.
It’s a wonder the shock didn’t kill me.
Flippant expressions sting like hell
And speaking of flippant expressions like “It’s a wonder the shock didn’t kill me”, only when someone you love dies do you realize how often people use death-related expressions in daily life. “Don’t have a stroke”, “The good die young”, and “It’s like a cancer” all take on a different meaning when they happen to your loved one. “I almost had a heart attack” was an expression used often by many of my friends, but it stung like hell to hear it after my dad actually did have one.
Random items that belonged to your loved one suddenly take on new meaning
It’s been over 30 years since my dad’s death and I still have the travel alarm clock he woke up to every morning. It doesn’t work and I don’t even keep it on display, but I will never part with it. Same goes for the monogrammed handkerchiefs into which he always blew his nose. My dad won trophies for running and was an avid gardener, but it’s the clock and the hankies that suddenly became significant.
In my collection of worthless, but priceless, treasures, I have costume jewelry brooches from each of my grandmothers and a miniature ceramic teapot that belonged to my auntie. These items have become hugely significant to me.
Even if you don’t believe in the paranormal, you’ll get messages from the other side
You think about your loved one all the time in the weeks after their death. You’ll probably talk to them a lot, too. Then one day, as you’re walking down the street, you’ll recall a fond memory and in that instant, the sun will peek out from behind a cloud and shine on you. And you’ll know, I mean absolutely know without a doubt, that it’s a sign that your departed is thinking about you.
About six months after my dad passed away, my mother and I adopted our first cat. The cat had been abandoned, taken in by a relative of my friend, but hadn’t settled with the cats she already had. My friend couldn’t take the kitten, and so by a series of random events, Smudge came into our lives. One day, Smudge looked at me in a way that made me speculate if he could be the reincarnation of my dad. Crazy, right? Perhaps, but the possibility gave me a lot of comfort.
One day you wake up and can’t remember what they looked like
The dead never age. My mother is almost 85 now. She has white hair and her body has lost its strength. But my dad will always be young and vibrant, his body lean and strong from running, and his face slender and tanned.
For a long time, I couldn’t shake off the images of the last time I saw him on the night he died. But over time, I replaced those with fonder memories of him at the beach or walking in the hills. I’m no longer sure if I remember him this way in real life or just from the photographs I have. But I do know that there were days when I woke up and could not remember what he looked like. Those were terrible moments, filled with panic. But they passed because you never really do forget.
You never fully get over losing someone
Losing someone you love changes you forever. You immediately feel like you don’t fit in, that you are the sole member of a club that even your closest friends aren’t eligible to join. Eventually, you learn to live without your loved one, you get on with your life, and you even love other people. You don’t drag around your grief forever.
But you never really get over losing that person. You always have a little hole in your soul that no one else can ever fill. But somehow you learn to live around it.