Issue #228 / March 2023
I lost my dad a few years ago, in somewhat traumatic circumstances. I still feel him here with me, but sometimes it’s a bit too much and it makes me break down. Even five years after the fact. Do you have any advice on how to heal from this?
KEVIN, BELFAST, IRELAND
Things are sometimes sad, that’s the truth of it – you see a movie and you are unexpectedly mauled by it, or you hear a song on the car radio and have to pull over to the side of the road, or you see a photograph that just floors you, or you wake from a dream and find that here you are, it’s early morning, the room feels replete with spirits and you’re breaking down again.
We each have our reserves of sorrow that rise to the surface, provoked by one little thing or another, to remind us we are human and that we love and that we are a part of the great human story that flows along the ancient waterways of our collected and historical griefs. This breaking down is not something from which we need to be saved or cured, but rather it is the toss and tumble of life, and the occasional losing of oneself to the sadness of things is an honouring of life itself. It signals, Kevin, not just your implicit existential participation, but that you just really loved your dad, and it’s sad he’s not around, and that, my friend, is not a feeling from which you need to be healed. In fact, quite the opposite; all of us, as contributors to the human enterprise, reserve the right indefinitely to capsize on occasion, in the name of those we loved and lost.
I write these words having just returned with Susie from watching a preview of a film featuring our son, Earl – a beautiful but sad film, and one during which we had to spend a fair amount of time, in the dark of the cinema, putting ourselves back together. It sometimes feels like we are all forever putting ourselves back together, but I have only ever felt stronger for doing it. It seems to me our griefs are the very things that keep us within the world as active participants in its story, making us more effective and ultimately more joyful, despite, or perhaps because of, our breaking down.