Grief is funny emotion. Its just as all consuming as joy and fear, but so much deeper. Grief can make you do some strange things. Since my grandfather’s death in November, I’ve been experience the power and confusion of grief firsthand. He was the first person in my life to pass away (unless you count distance relatives whom I barely knew) and he was so much more than a grandfather. I think I’ve rehashed that here enough, but suffice it to say, grief is making me do some funny things. The first few days were the worst. I felt like I was walking around in a complete fog. One morning I tried to peel a raw egg for breakfast. Then I went to work and sat at the wrong desk for a full 5 minutes. The fog lifted after about a week and I entered complete denial. My brain simply wouldn’t and couldn’t (and sometimes still can’t) comprehend that he was gone. I called my grandmother and had to bite my tongue when I kept asking if I could talk to grandpa. I kept thinking about all the things I wanted to tell him and all things I wanted to do with him over my holiday break. Every time I thought of something new to tell him, the grief would hit me again, just as fresh and strong as it had been that very first day. Its now been three weeks and the tide has once again changed. I can get through nearly an entire day without thinking about it, but then one simple memory, thought, emotion, smell can set it off. This morning, I walked down to the engineering department to deliver a sample I had made for the a collaborator’s lab when I had to stop in the hall to collect myself. Grandpa was an engineer and was so excited that I had been chosen for this collaboration. I talked to him about it all the time, and I was suddenly struck with overwhelming grief that I couldn’t tell him about this most recent collaboration. The feeling of loss really hasn’t gone away all day.
This brings me to another reason for my sudden return to grief. My birthday was over the weekend and I received a call from my biological father. I have had sporadic contact with him over the past 15 years or so, usually beginning with him telling me he has “changed” and then ending with it him falling right back into his old habits and me heartbroken and swearing I’ll never contact him again. It is not a healthy relationship, and one that I’ve severed many times in my life, only to go back feeling guilty and yet hopeful that maybe one day he really will change. Anyway, i didn’t answer his phone call, but listened to his voicemail. As usual, I was struck with nearly every emotion under the sun: anger, sadness, sheer pity for myself and my situation,and once again incredible sadness that I didn’t have my real father to talk to about this. My mom assured me that I don’t owe him anything and it was entirely my choice if I wanted to respond to him, although she encouraged me to at least acknowledge his call with a thank you email. I let it sit for a few days, and today I realized she was right. I just lost my real father, and here I am pushing away the biological one. Yes, he has made many, many, many mistakes (none of which I will ever rehash in this forum) in his time and was far from a father, but the least I can do is thank him for the phone call. I composed a short, polite email telling him about my new life in grad school and thanking him for the phone call. I really don’t know what kind, if any, response I am hoping for, but it really doesn’t matter. I am confident in my decision to sever ties with him and I know that his response won’t change that. I guess the grief just got me and for a moment, I wanted to believe that I still had a father in this world.